Pixel Scroll 9/11/20 Mrs. Pixel, We’re Needed

(1) FUR STUDIES. The Dogpatch Press published a 2-part interview with a professor at Boston College specializing in classical history who teaches a course called “Beast Literature” which covers talking animal stories and gets into animation and furry fandom.

I gather that classicism is about Greek/Roman tradition and how it carries on in modern culture. How does that merge with research about Disney and similar pop culture, and how did that develop as a focus for you?

That’s right — Classics is a complicated term, but it’s shorthand for the study of the ancient Mediterranean world and its continuing significance.

As for Classics, Disney, and pop culture, I can’t say exactly how it all began merging. I’ve loved animation for as long as I can remember. VHS tapes of Disney’s Robin Hood, Bluth’s American Tail, and Vitello’s Gallavants ran non-stop in my house when I was a kid, and that interest has gotten stronger as time goes by. And I’ve been studying Classics for more than 20 years now. If you spend that long learning and thinking intensively about one area, you just can’t shut off that part of your brain. You develop a sensitivity and notice wherever it pops up, whether that’s at work or vegging out in front of the TV.

The fact that Greece and Rome exert this pervasive presence means it happens all the time, and the more you notice, the more complex and interesting those patterns become, and the deeper you want to dive. So it’s an organic mixing of two things I love and have spent a ton of time trying to learn and understand better.

(Dogpatch Press:) It was interesting that you mentioned teaching a course in talking animals. Tell me all about it! Since when, and how unique is that, and how is it being received? What sort of students are in it and what are they studying in general?

(Christopher Polt:) I love that course — the material is so fun and weird and meaningful. The basic question we ask is, “What are we doing when we speak by using animal voices, and what does that say about our attitudes towards humans, animals, and the lines we draw between them?” It’s also my chance to teach some cool, off-the-wall art and literature. We read Apuleius’ Golden Ass, which is a novel about a guy who accidentally turns himself into a donkey and goes on a journey through the Roman provinces (think The Emperor’s New Groove, but much sexier and more violent), and Nivardus’ Ysengrimus, which is the earliest major collection of stories about Reynard the fox, an archetypal animal trickster.

Sometimes I also take students on field trips to tie historical material we’re learning to lived experience. One of my favorites has been to a local pet cemetery. We spend a few days talking about how Greeks and Romans use animals to think about divinity, mortality, and the afterlife, and we look at epitaphs and funeral poems for dead pets, which are often written from the animal’s point of view. There’s a great example in the British Museum, which commemorates the life of a dog named Margarita (“Pearl” in Latin), who died while giving birth to puppies:

Another professor at U of South Florida does an animals in antiquity course that has a section on furries. 

Christopher Polt also discusses masks in ancient drama in an interesting thread that starts here.

(2) GAME OF ZONING. Ben Ashford, in the Daily Mail story “‘All it’s missing is Jon Snow and a couple of dragons!’ GoT author George R.R. Martin submits plans to build fantasy castle in his New Mexico backyard – but his neighbors aren’t bending the knee!”, says that Martin submitted plans to build a seven-story library in his backyard that looks like the tower of a castle, but the Santa Fe Historic Review Board turned him down because the keep was six feet higher than what zoning regulations permitted.

The 71-year-old creator of Dragonstone, Winterfell and the Red Keep describes his proposed Gothic-style structure as a free-standing ‘seven-sided library’ in a planning application lodged with the City of Santa Fe.

But locals say the fortress-like building, featuring imposing stone walls, battlements and a 27ft tower, is akin to something from HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones and totally out of place in a suburban neighborhood where it will spoil their views.

Martin’s architects toned down the medieval aspects in revised drawings but still need special permission from the city’s Historic Design Review Board to start work on the ‘Water Garden Keep’ because the turret is several feet higher than zoning codes allow.

(3) SUSANNA CLARKE REVIVAL. The New Yorker visits “Susanna Clarke’s Fantasy World of Interiors”. Tagline: “Fifteen years after an illness rendered her largely housebound, the best-selling writer is releasing a novel that feels like a surreal meditation on life in quarantine.”

… Often while I spoke to Clarke I could hear Greenland in the background, clinking dishes in the kitchen sink. Later, he told me that Clarke gets up much earlier than he does, and tries to write for the few hours when her energy is at its peak. By the afternoon, she needs to rest, and even in the morning her ability to participate in, say, a demanding conversation is limited to about an hour. She is very private about whatever she’s working on; in fact, she can be a little cagey about whether she’s working on anything at all. “She’s on her sofa with her laptop,” Greenland said. “And I don’t know if she’s playing a game, if she’s watching TV, if she’s writing e-mails, or if she’s working. It’s not apparent to me. She’s in her bubble. But what I do know is that, for a long while, she was too ill to write. And then, after that, she was writing fragments.”

Many of these “bits,” as Clarke calls them, have been squirrelled away for possible inclusion in some future work. “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” is partly written in a style reminiscent of John Aubrey, the British scholar best known for his “Brief Lives” series of short biographies. In the novel, these passages come complete with footnoted anecdotes that document the history of English magic with a distinctive combination of whimsy and nineteenth-century punctiliousness. One such story mentions a chick, hatched from an enchanted egg, that “grew up and later started a fire that destroyed most of Grantham.” Clarke writes, “During the conflagration it was observed bathing itself in the flames. From this circumstance, it was presumed to be a phoenix.”

Although the origins of “Piranesi” predate Clarke’s illness, she did not commence intensive work on it until her symptoms abated, a few years ago…. 

 Dan Kois’ review of Piranesi for Slate, “Susanna Clarke’s First Novel in 16 Years Is a Wonder”, begins:

How big is the House? It is limitless. Its towering rooms are the size of two soccer fields or more. Connected by passageways and staircases, the rooms extend in every direction as far as Piranesi can explore. He writes in his journals that he has traveled nearly a thousand rooms from what he believes to be the center of things and has never reached the end. Even the staircases are huge, their steps much taller than a man can comfortably climb, as if, Piranesi writes, “God had originally built the House intending to people it with Giants before inexplicably changing His Mind.”

(4) OLD PEOPLE READ OLD SFF. James Davis Nicoll reread “The Amazing Adventures of Space Cat!” for the first time since 1969. (James may not really be that old, but he is the curator of the Young People Read Old SFF series, so what else could I call it?)

…Convinced the cat is lucky (as opposed to, say, needing more supervision than it is getting), Fred insists that the cat accompany him on humanity’s very first trip to the Moon. Fred’s superiors acquiesce because they would not dream of taking away a man’s good-luck charm. When Fred leaves for the Moon on rocket ship ZQX-1, Flyball accompanies him.

(5) I, FOR ONE. In “Two Books Wonder: How Long Until You Fall in Love With a Robot?”, the New York Times’ Amanda Hess discusses Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny by Debora L. Spar and Sex Robots And Vegan Meat: Adventures at the Frontier of Birth, Food, Sex, and Death by Jenny Kleeman.

“Science fiction is not about the future,” the sci-fi novelist Samuel R. Delany wrote in 1984. The future “is only a writerly convention,” he continued, one that “sets up a rich and complex dialogue with the reader’s here and now.” That is a useful way of understanding all the many pop nonfiction books that speculate about the technologies of the future, and attempt to divine their effects on human beings. Their predictions depend on how well they interpret the present.

One such interpreter is Debora L. Spar, the dean of Harvard Business School Online, who writes at the intersection of tech and gender. In her new book, “Work Mate Marry Love,” she considers an emerging wave of innovations that she believes could upend how we experience relationships, reproduction, gender expression and death. “We will fall in love with nonhuman beings,” Spar predicts in the book’s opening pages, “and find ways to extend our human lives into something that begins to approximate forever.” Spar argues that new technologies spark shifts in the most intimate of human affairs, often in unexpected ways. She casts this as a causal relationship, one imbued with a sense of inevitability. The book’s subtitle, “How Machines Shape Our Human Destiny,” gives the machines the agency.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Paul Winchell, the voice of Jerry Mahoney and Disney’s Tigger has the honor of having filed the first patent for an artificial heart: “Paul Winchell: An Amazing Inventor”.

…But what was probably most fascinating about Winchell was the fact that he was a very successful inventor. Over the course of his life, he held patents on over 30 devices, including a disposable razor, a flameless cigarette lighter, an illuminated ballpoint pen, a retractable fountain pen, an inverted novelty mask, battery-operated heated gloves, an indicator to show when frozen food had gone bad after a power outage, and the first artificial human heart. That’s right, the artificial heart.

This invention was developed through collaboration with Dr. Henry Heimlich, inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver, and held the first patent for such a device.

(7) FERRIS-YERXA OBIT. It has been leaned that author Frances Ferris-Yerxa died March 3, 2019 at the age of 101. The family notice said:

She married Le Roy Yerxa. When Le Roy passed away at an early age, she was left with four young children to raise and care for. She later married William Hamling and they had two more children. She was always oriented to the welfare of her family. She loved all her children, all her grandchildren, all her great grandchildren and great great grandchildren and nieces and nephews.

The Yerxa website notes that both Leroy (as his name was spelled on magazine covers) and Frances wrote stories for the “pulp” science fiction magazines Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures.

These magazines were published by Ziff-Davis out of Chicago, IL. By the early 1940s, Palmer, the managing editor of these publications, had developed a stable of local (Chicago-based) writers who could write to order, often producing stories around cover paintings by Harold McCauley, Robert Gibson Jones, or Malcolm Smith. The mainstays were Don Wilcox, Robert Moore Williams, David Wright O’Brien, William P. McGivern, Leroy Yerxa, and David Vern, plus (later in the decade) Chester S. Geier, Berkeley Livingston, and William L. Hamling.

Leroy Yerxa was among the most prolific contributors to the Ziff-Davis magazines. He was twenty-seven years old when his first story, “Death Rides at Night,” appeared under his own name in the August 1942 Amazing. In the next four years, till his untimely death in 1946, he sold more than seventy stories to Palmer for Amazing Stories and Fantastic Adventures, with many of those published pseudonymously. He is rumored to have written an entire issue of Fantastic Adventures (possibly the one for December 1943). While other writers wrote more, their output was not concentrated in such a short, intense period. Possibly Yerxa’s only rival in this regard was David Wright O’Brien, who in the five years from 1940 through 1944 sold more than a hundred stories to Palmer, not counting his collaborations with McGivern.

Palmer’s core of writers were so prolific that they could fill every issue. To avoid the frequent recurrence of names, the authors used various personal pseudonyms, some of which were later adopted by other authors. For instance, “Lee Francis” began as a pen name of Leroy Yerxa’s (which he often used when his wife Frances published a piece under her own name in the same edition), but after his death in 1946 it was used by others, including Hamling. In addition, a practice began of creating a number of “house names.” The house names were used by several writers, so that we had the authors using several names and several authors using the same name.

Leroy Yerxa died and, after a reasonable length of time, William Hamling, who had been a good friend as well as colleague, proposed to Frances Yerxa. Frances, who had already made a name for herself as a writer with her material appearing all over the place, accepted Hamling’s proposal and Hamling assumed responsibility for Yerxa’s sons Edward and Richard, and began raising them as his own. Then, Bill and Frances had two children, a daughter Debbie and Billy Jr. They lived in Evanston, the north contiguous suburb of Chicago, on Fowler Avenue in a nice, comfortable house.

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

September 2010  — At Aussiecon 4 a decade ago this month, China Miéville‘s The City & The City would win the Best Novel Hugo in a tie with The Windup Girl by  Paolo Bacigalupi. It would be his first, and to date only, Hugo Award. It would later win the BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel, the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Impressive indeed. It was written as a gift for Miéville’s terminally ill mother, who was a fan of police procedurals. It  would be made into an audiobook narrated by John Lee who also narrates Alastair Reynolds’ Prefect Tom Dreyfus novels. A four-part television adaptation by the BBC was broadcast in 2018.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 11, 1862 – O. Henry.  Master of the short story, often with a surprise ending.  I’ve read the 1926 Complete Works with almost three hundred, poems too; perhaps half a dozen are ours.  When in Wouk’s Youngblood Hawke Jeanne Green compares YH to O. Henry and YH recoils, Wouk who is no dope means us to see YH is wrong and JG is right; YH doesn’t know his own greatness in his fog of yearning for sophistication.  Of course we’d never –  (Died 1910) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1889 – Ann Bridge.  Alpinist, archaeologist, gardener.  Novel And Then You Came, four shorter stories, for us; a score of other novels including detective fiction, also travel, memoirs.  Praise: people, history, politics shown with truth and skill.  Blame: snooty.  Decide for yourself.  (Died 1974) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1940 Brian De Palma, 80. Though not a lot of genre work, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1941 Kirby McCauley. Literary agent and editor who as the former who represented authors such as Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Roger Zelazny. And McCauley chaired the first World Fantasy Convention, an event he conceived with T. E. D. Klein and several others. As Editor, his works include Night Chills: Stories of Suspense, FrightsFrights 2, and Night Chills. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1951 Michael Goodwin, 69. Ahhh — Alan Dean Foster’s Commonwealth series. I know that I’ve read at least a half dozen of the novels there and really enjoyed them, so it doesn’t surprise that someone wrote a guide to it which is how we have Goodwin’s (with Robert Teague) A Guide to the Commonwealth: The Official Guide to Alan Dean Foster’s Humanx Commonwealth Universe. Unfortunately, like so many of these guides, it was done once and never updated. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1952 Sharon Lee, 68. She is the co-author with Steve Miller of the Liaden universe novels and stories which are quite excellent reading with the latest being Neogenesis. They have won Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for for lifetime contributions to science fiction, and they won The Golden Duck (the Hal Clement Young Adult Award) for their Balance of Trade novel.  They are deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born September 11, 1956 – Jefferson Swycaffer, 64.  Ten novels, thirty shorter stories; regular correspondent in Broken Toys; active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation), indeed winning both its Kaymar and Neffy Awards.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1958 Roxann Dawson, 62. Best remembered for being B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. She’s also a published genre author having written the Tenebrea trilogy with Daniel Graham. This space opera series is available from the usual digital suspects. She’s got two genre film creds, Angela Rooker in Darkman III: Die Darkman Die, and Elizabeth Summerlee in the 1998 version of The Lost World. She’s the voice of The Repair Station computer on the “Dead Stop” episode of Enterprise. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1960 – William Tienken.  This appreciation by Our Gracious Host beats anything I could do.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1961 – Sally Green, 59.  Half Bad and Smoke Thieves trilogies, plus 3½ novella “Half Lies”.  Meanwhile she still runs most days despite several attempts to give it up.  [JH]
  • Born September 11, 1965 Cat Sparks, 55. Winner of an astounding fourteen Ditmar Awards for writing, editing and artwork, her most recent was in 2019 when she garnered one for “The 21st Century Catastrophe: Hyper-capitalism and Severe Climate Change in Science Fiction“.   She has just one published novel to date, Lotus Blue, though there’s an unpublished one, Effigy, listed at ISFDB. She has an amazing amount of short stories all of which are quite stellar. Lotus Blue and The Bride Price collection are both available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 11, 1976 – Lizzy Stevens, 44.  A novel and (with husband Steve Miller) five shorter stories; “A Lost Memory” an Amazon Best Seller.  Some other fellow having written Dharma Bums, LS and SM wrote about karma bums.  That Loki is always right in the way.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WINGING IT. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt says that former Marvel Comics editor Christian Cooper, famed as the Black birder accosted by a white woman in Central Park, has come out with a comic called “It’s a Bird!” that is “The first issue of ‘Represent!’ a digital series from DC Comics that will showcase writers and artists from groups underrepresented in the industry.” “Christian Cooper has written a comic book partly inspired by his viral Central Park moment”.

… “It’s a Bird” features Jules, a teenager given a pair of binoculars by his father and told to explore his surroundings. Jules, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of birds, is quickly harassed by those threatened by his presence as an unannounced Black man in an open space.

That and other moments of hostility evoke racial profiling that Cooper and other Black birders have experienced, but the story turns slightly mystical when Jules begins using his binoculars and sees images of Black people who have fallen to police violence, including Amadou Diallo, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

Cooper works as a senior editorial director at Health Science Communications and didn’t think he would wind up back at one of the superhero publishers so quickly, but here he is.

“I really appreciated it when [DC Comics] came to me and said do you want to do this comic, because I did have something to say,” he said in an interview. “It’s interesting how it slips into maybe this space in the DC Universe that isn’t normally occupied. It is a very magical-realist tale. There is something fantastical that happens in the course of the story. But it’s not capes. It’s not superheroes.”

(12) LEGO MY THINGO. The Drum invites readers to “Meet Bygglek: how Ikea and Lego built a creative solution to messy play”. I thought only Dr. Seuss tought up names like that.

Lego is well aware that its product encourages mess. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, as any decent Lego session ends with bricks and figures all over the floor. To make it easier for parents to cope without stifling creativity, Lego looked to the giants of storage, Ikea. Together they created a simple solution, aptly named ’Bygglek.’

…Løgstrup recalls how, while struggling to make the right contact at Ikea, a chance encounter at a school board meeting kickstarted the soon-to-be long-term collaboration between the two beloved Scandinavian brands. “By some coincidence, the leader from our licensing department happened to sit next to someone at Ikea and they started discussing the potential project,“ he explains.

Spurred on by this coincidence, the early courtship saw the Lego team invite Ikea to ‘come play‘ by sending them a stop motion movie to spell out the challenge Lego faced. An attractive offer that few could refuse, Ikea designer Andreas Fredriksson notes. “Of course we wanted to play. It was a yes from the beginning. It‘s the perfect match because we work with small space living at home and Lego is all about play.“

(13) MULAN OPENS QUIETLY IN CHINA. Pei Li, in the Reuters story “Disney’s ‘Mulan’ battles mixed reviews and media muzzle at Chinese launch”, says that Mulan was launched in China with “no major media buildup and no star-studded premier or red-carpet launch” with the film getting mixed reviews in China due in part to its historical anachronisms (buildings exist in the film that were built several hundred years later).

…”Mulan” has provoked a backlash on overseas social media over its star’s support of Hong Kong police and for being partly filmed in the Xinjiang region, where China’s clamp-down on ethnic Uighurs and other Muslims has been criticised by some governments and rights groups.

Chinese authorities told major media outlets not to cover the film’s release in the wake of the uproar, four people familiar with matter told Reuters, further weighing on its chances of success.

(14) MISGUIDED MISSIVE. Early Bird Books, a division of Open Road Media, sends subscribers emails with a list of e-books which are on special for the moment. Yesterday, a now-former subscriber reports they sent her an email with the subject “Message From Our Partner: Relieve Dryness & Make Intimacy Comfortable” with extensive information and endorsements about a product marketed by FemmePharma. The recipient was outraged and copied it to me.

One almost wonders if it was an act of revenge by an employee on their way out the door.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. German Netflix series Dark ended this year; here’s a breakdown on its themes on nihilism and fate from the YouTube channel Wisecrack.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, N., Mike Kennedy, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Patch O’Furr, Frank Olynyk, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 8/23/20 Scrolling In The Pixel Rain

(1) COLUMBUS 2020 NASFIC. The latest North American Science Fiction Convention ended today. NASFiC Newsletter is a place where you’ll find preserved such vital information as —

NASFiC by the Numbers

As of 11:30 pm on Saturday there were 1092 people registered through the convention website and 716 people on Discord.

Souvenir Book

We all know no one reads the souvenir book until they’re home, long after the con has ended. But since you’re ALREADY home, you can read it now! Read about our awesome Guests of Honor! Check out the convenient lists of artists and dealers, in case you want to follow up on something you saw at the con. Click to download your copy!

Out of context quotes

“Our asses are full of miracles”

“The attendees… or my minions. Whichever is more convenient”

“I just want to give all of you a big hug with my sand snork”

I can also recommend the NASFiC History section because some of it is written by yours truly. It begins with the site selection vote held in 1973 for the original NASFiC of 1975:

…Each bid was led by a co-chair of L.A.Con I, the just-completed Worldcon, Charles Crayne or Bruce Pelz.

…Crayne and Pelz reacted to TorCon 2’s [decision] simply by running their own site selection process at the con. I got my first bidding experience while helping Bruce Pelz and Milt Stevens haul cases of beer from a package store to their bid party in Toronto’s Royal York Hotel. “Strong backs, weak minds,” I think Bruce said. When the ballots were counted, we (Bruce and Milt may be thinking, “What do you mean, we?”) lost to Chuck Crayne’s bid.

(2) OKORAFOR Q&A. NPR’s Weekend Edition spoke with Nnedi Okorafor about her new book: “A Boy Avenges His Murdered Father, With The Help Of A Magical ‘Ikenga'”.

On whether the themes in the book were inspired by present-day corruption

I started writing this in 2009. … What we’re dealing with now in the United States, it’s not something that just happened. It’s been been going, and going, and going, and if we’re talking about Nigeria, Nigeria has been battling corruption for a very long time as well. … I couldn’t say that it was inspired by current events, but its connection to current events is certainly no accident.

On having a more global perspective

It was like I grew up hybrid — this hybrid culture where … I’m learning about two different histories and blending them together. And so when I sat down to write, that’s what naturally came forth. … When it comes to looking at things historically, I look at it in a very broad, global way. Everything that happens, you know, I’m making connections not just from one country, but from two countries.

(3) CLARION WEST. The Clarion West Write-a-Thon reached new heights:

…We set a new record as 542 individual writers participated, with nearly 250 active regulars bonding and sharing writing on our Slack channel. We are so proud and grateful!

In all, we raised over $26,000, surpassing our goal and ensuring we can continue to bring the Clarion West resources and experience to the world. Going online with so many classes, most of them free, was a huge investment. We can say without doubt that this investment has paid off!

(4) BUG NIGHT. Clarion West will be hosting a free online event with Seanan McGuire and an entomologist. Register at the link.

Saturday, Sept 12, 6:00 PM Pacific

Insects, Arachnids, and Fellow Travelers, a.k.a “Bug Night”

Join us for a conversation with award-winning author Seanan McGuire and entomologist Kristie Reddick to discuss how science fiction and fantasy use bugs as proxies for aliens, societies, fears, and hopes. From Alien to Ant Man, Starship Troopers to James and the Giant Peach, what do all these stories have to tell us about being human?

Register here. This event is free to view online. Purchase a ticket to join the live Q&A after the event. Limited higher-tier tickets also get you books and other goodies for supporting Clarion West!

(5) RECONVENE AFTER ACTION REPORT. Mlex tells what it was like to virtually attend “reCONvene 2020”, and has quotes from some of the panels.

…reCONvene has now assembled and accomplished a hybrid version of the other cons I attended. And they did it really well!

The format of reCONvene was to set up a series of simultaneous program items, so that you could only attend one out of several that were happening during any given hour. This is the typical parallel programming style of most cons, so it had a natural feel to it. Since the con was a one-day event, this meant that between the hours of 11am to 5pm, you could attend six full panels sessions, at most. Or, if you are the sort to go in and out of rooms during a con, you could pop around and get a flavor for the multiple things going on.

Glimpsing Climate Recovery

Vincent Dougherty (moderator)
Vandhana Singh

Vandhana Singh started off the session by noting that the looming threat of climate change is not being met with the serious measures it requires. On the contrary, the collective juggernaut of humankind is colliding with it head on.

VandhanaIt’s a so called ‘normal’ way of behavior that brought us here. People are so invested in what feels normal for them, their denial kicks in, and they want to do the same things they have always done in the same way. I really didn’t realize the depth to which the current paradigm has a hold on our imaginations. And you can also see the predicted rise of right-wing groups actually taking place before our very eyes.

VinceIn any complex system you not only get the linear effect, but you get all sorts of unexpected outcomes that radiate out in different directions. There’s an established body of climate fiction that deals with these actually. There were archetypes of them even before the 20th century. And each of these stories attempts to deal with the inexplicable change that suddenly occurs. These could be brought on by wars, pandemics, or even the use of agriculture. Historically all of these, and many other factors, have been proven to be causes of total systemic changes. So, what do you think you are going to change in your fiction writing due to this situation that we find ourselves in?

(6) JUDGE EAST OF THE PECOS. Adam Roberts tells The Guardian’s readers about a book that pleased him: “Mordew by Alex Pheby review – an extravagant, unnerving fantasy”.

…I’m one of the judges for the 2020 World Fantasy award and over the last few months I’ve read literally hundreds of fantasy titles, some good, some bad, most mediocre. I might easily have groaned at yet another entry into this overcrowded mode. But Mordew is a darkly brilliant novel, extraordinary, absorbing and dream-haunting. That it succeeds as well as it does speaks to Pheby’s determination not to passively inhabit his Gormenghastly idiom but instead to lead it to its most extreme iteration, to force inventiveness and grotesqueness into every crevice of his work. It seems that one way to take an apparently exhausted idiom and make it new is just to push through, with enough imaginative energy to refresh the tired old tropes. Mordew is so crammed with grotesque inventiveness that it overwhelms the reader’s resistance.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 23, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks starring Peter Cushing premiered in the U.K. Note that  it was not Who canon as, though it used The Daleks serial script by Terry Nation from the series as its basis, The Doctor here is not part of the regenerations accepted by the BBC. Roberta Tovey as Susan and Jennie Linden as Barbara are the other principal cast. It was directed by Gordon Flemyng, and produced by Milton Subotsky and Max J. Rosenberg from a screenplay by Subotsky. Neither Clute nor anyone else who’s reviewed cared for it or its sequel. A Guardian reviewer several years back said that, “people don’t talk about Dr Who and the Daleks any more.” Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently have the film at a 41% rating. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 23, 1863 – Amélie Rives, Princess Troubetzkoy.  A score of novels (we may claim The Ghost Garden), shorter stories, paintings, plays; three poems in Fantasy & Terror 13 (ed. J.A. Salmonson; published posthumously).  Introduced to Prince Pierre Troubetzkoy (1864-1936) by Oscar Wilde.  Matter by and about her and the Prince in U. Virginia Lib’y Special Collections.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1898 – George Papashvily.  Author, sculptor, inventor.  Fought in Georgian Menshevik Army against Soviet Russians, immigrated here.  Memoir Anything Can Happen (with wife Helen) sold 1.5 million copies, made a motion picture (G. Seaton dir. 1952); five more books.  We may claim “Davit” and “The Khevsouri and the Eshmakie”.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1924 – Lloyd Birmingham.  A score of covers, thirty interiors.  Here is the Nov 61 Fantastic.  Here is the Feb 62 Analog.  Here is the Apr 62 Amazing and here is the Oct 63.  Here is Great SF 9.  Also comics, freelance illustration.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not one who was a lead actor in any genre series save Department S where he was Jason King but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avengers pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth CenturyFantasy IslandThe Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock PresentsI Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1931 Barbara Eden, 89. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors, though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring role as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander. Author of Time after Time which when filmed was directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. (A thirteen-episode series would happen in 2017.) His sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known, nor is his Time-Crossed Lovers novel. (Died 2015.) (CE) 
  • Born August 23, 1947 – Marva Dasef, 73.  Technical writer who turned to fiction.  Three novels, twenty shorter stories for us; various others.  Ranked The Martian above Dhalgren.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1961 Alexandre Desplat, 59. French film composer who won an Academy Award for The Shape of Water. He also composed the music for genre films including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Golden CompassFantastic Mr. FoxHarry Potter and the Deathly HallowsRise of the Guardians, and Isle of Dogs. (CE)
  • Born August 23, 1969 – Benjamin Rosenbaum, 51.  One novel, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Urdu.  Software developer for Nat’l Science Foundation, for Washington, D.C., city government; built on-line game Sanctum.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1983 – Winston Blake Wheeler Ward, 37.  Founded Infinite Worlds magazine with a Kickstarter raising $3,500 from a hundred people (target $1,500) in Apr 19; five issues so far.  Founder & curator of on-line monthly flash-fiction challenge the Five Hundred.  Loves woodworking and dogs.  [JH]
  • Born August 23, 1990 Jessica Lee Keller, 30. Lauren, Elise’s Best Friend, in The Adjustment Bureau from Philip K. Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. She also shows up in LuciferTerror Birds and 12-24 where IMDB describes her as the One Tit Zombie. (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) NOW AT BAT. Warner Bros. dropped a trailer during the DC Fandome for The Batman with Robert Pattinson.

(11) FANTASTICON ONLINE IN SEPTEMBER. Denmark’s “Fantasticon 2020 becomes virtual”.

This year’s Fantasticon will not be “The Weird Fantasticon” at our usual venue, but will be a virtual convention, like most other conventions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The dates will be 5-6 September 2020.

This post has more specifics: “The virtual Fantasticon 2020 – update”

Our plans for Fantasticon 2020 now include the following:

A virtual onetrack program on Zoom Saturday and Sunday 5-6 September from 10 Am to 4 PM.

A Discord server where you can meet the other fans and get information about the convention. Opens 9:30 AM on September 5th and closes 4:30 PM on September 6th.

Please sign up by buying a (free) ticket on Billetfix, https://billetfix.dk/da/e/virtual-fantasticon-2020/ You will get links to Zoom and the Discord server via the email you give us there.

The theme of Fantasticon will be disasters, but not a word about the covid-19 pandemic (we get plenty of info on that particular disaster from other sources). But as usual, not everthing will be about the theme.

Some of the program will be in English, some of it in Danish.

(12) FOUNDATION AND EMPIRE. Texas Monthly caught up with the founder of Romance Writers of America: “Vivian Stephens Helped Turn Romance Writing Into a Billion-Dollar Industry. Then She Got Pushed Out.”

…Stephens is 87 now, under self-imposed lockdown in one of those amenity-rich mid-rise apartment complexes that have sprouted all over Houston, this one just north of Hermann Park, in the Binz area. Her one-bedroom unit is cluttered with papers and stacks of books on nearly every surface. There are many romance novels, yes, as well as more-cerebral tomes such as A Nervous Splendor, a history of Vienna in the late 1880s. Family photographs, some dating back almost to that time, populate a small table in a living room corner….

…  It has long been an open secret—certainly among women of color—that romance publishing has a race problem. A 2014 survey of four thousand romance writers conducted by Larson revealed that authors of color earned about 60 percent less than white writers. In 2019, research conducted by the Ripped Bodice, in Los Angeles, one of the few bookstores in America to sell romance exclusively, revealed that only 8 percent of leading romance publishers had released novels by women of color. And, not incidentally or coincidentally, the membership of the RWA is 86 percent white, according to the latest data. No Black writer had won a RITA—formerly the RWA’s highest honor—until 2019, and not for want of trying….

(13) SAFETY FIRST. Ron Fein delivers the “Arkham Board Of Health Feedback On Miskatonic University’s Draft Plan For A Safe Campus Reopening” at McSweeneys.

Food services

We agree that students need not wear masks during meals. However, please revise the final plan to say “while eating,” rather than “while slobbering and ravening with delight.”

(14) ANOTHER PSA. Even CNN’s headline writer is exasperated: “Oh, great: NASA says an asteroid is headed our way right before Election Day”.

Well, 2020 keeps getting better all the time.

Amid a pandemiccivil unrest and a divisive US election season, we now have an asteroid zooming toward us.

On the day before the presidential vote, no less.

Yep. The celestial object known as 2018VP1 is projected to come close to Earth on November 2, according to the Center for Near Earth Objects Studies at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It was first identified at Palomar Observatory in California in 2018.

“Asteroid 2018VP1 is very small, approximately 6.5 feet, and poses no threat to Earth. If it were to enter our planet’s atmosphere, it would disintegrate due to its extremely small size,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA has been directed by Congress to discover 90% of the near-Earth asteroids larger than 140 meters (459 feet) in size and reports on asteroids of any size.”

(15) SHOOTS AND LEAVES. CNN issues an invitation to “Meet the ‘SlothBot,’ the robot taking its sweet time to monitor our climate”.

…”I could not understand how these slow, tasty animals that are just sitting there waiting to be eaten by a jaguar could survive,” Egerstedt said. “So I started reading about sloths and I got really excited about embracing slowness in robotics. And when you’re measuring things that are evolving over weeks and months, you don’t have to be fast — it’s OK to be slow, as long as you’re out there and getting the job done.”

With this in mind, Egerstedt and several students in his lab came up with the idea to design a robot that could do just that — reach places that humans and most high-powered robots can’t, like a tree canopy, and stay there to monitor environmental changes over time.

To do this, the SlothBot needed to be extremely energy efficient — sloth-like, if you will — to conserve power and continue sampling the air, without having to be lowered down from the trees and recharged….

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In 2016, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum made it possible to “Explore the Museum in Klingon”. Here’s a video based on the outtakes.

The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum is one of the galaxy’s most popular tourist destinations, and celebrates infinite diversity in infinite combinations among its visitors. Although we are fairly certain there are no longer undercover Klingon agents on staff, we welcome citizens of the planet Kronos to explore the history of flight on Earth alongside our terrestrial visitors.

To help increase Klingon visitorship, we turned to Earth’s premier extraterrestrial linguist and former Smithsonian post-doctoral fellow, Marc Okrand. Okrand developed the Klingon and Vulcan languages for the Star Trek franchise, and was kind enough to translate and record a highlights tour of the Museum, discussing your favorite artifacts in Klingon.

The tour, which can be enjoyed from anywhere on or off the planet, includes six of the Museum’s most iconic artifacts, some of which required creative interpretation for our interstellar audiences. The Spirit of St. Louis became St. Louis toDuj (Mettle of St. Louis), while John Glenn’s Mercury spacecraft Friendship 7 became “Mercury jup ghom Soch” (“Group of Friends 7”), because there is no Klingonese word for “friendship.”… 

[Thanks to John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title cedit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/20 I Feel My Temperature Rising, Higher Higher, It’s Pixelling Through To My Scroll

(1) RETRO ROCKET. [Item by Jeffrey Smith] A documentary crew’s attempt to find a 100-year-old rocket: “Space Oddity” in The Washington Post Magazine. This one has special interest for me because this is where I live — not Venus, but Hampden. In fact, I was on Morling Avenue today when I went out to pick up our dinner. I’ve eaten at Holy Frijoles, but not at Rocket to Venus, though it’s been here long enough and we’ve eaten everywhere else, so I don’t know why not.

… Now, three longtime friends living in Baltimore — John Benam, Brian Carey and Geoff Danek — along with a film crew, are trying to fill out the story of Robert Condit and his rocket for a documentary titled “Rocket to Venus.” In January, they retraced Condit’s movements to Miami Beach, where they learned he had taken the rocket after leaving Baltimore. Condit had made international news when he announced that he would launch himself into space from the Florida beach, including a December 1927 mention in The Washington Post under the headline “A Jaunt to Venus.”

“Time and again some hardy soul hoped to reach the stars,” the article read. “Never, so far as is known, has the feat been attempted: but no one had possessed a machine such as Mr. Condit has developed.”

…“It will not be very long until we know just what we have for neighbors,” Condit wrote about space travel in a 1928 lecture discovered by the filmmakers, “and in the course of the next few years, we will probably be doing business with Venus as casually as we now transact our affairs across the ocean or go for an aeroplane ride of a few thousand miles before breakfast.”

(2) EVEN HOTTER THAN WASHINGTON D.C. All the rocketship did was blow up in his garage, but the technology Condit used was not that different from rockets built at the time by Robert Goddard and Hermann Oberth. What would Condit have found if he’d made it? “Likely active volcanoes found on Venus, defying theory of dormant planet” says The Guardian.

Scientists have identified 37 volcanic structures on Venus that appear to have been recently active – and probably still are today – painting the picture of a geologically dynamic planet and not a dormant world as long thought.

The research focused on ring-like structures called coronae, caused by an upwelling of hot rock from deep within the planet’s interior, and provided compelling evidence of widespread recent tectonic and magma activity on Venus’s surface, researchers have said.

Many scientists had long thought that Venus, lacking the plate tectonics that gradually reshape Earth’s surface, was essentially dormant geologically, having been so for the past half billion years.

…The researchers determined the type of geological features that could exist only in a recently active corona – a telltale trench surrounding the structure. Then they scoured radar images of Venus taken by Nasa’s Magellan spacecraft in the 1990s to find coronae that fit the bill. Of 133 coronae examined, 37 appear to have been active in the past 2m to 3m years, a blink of the eye in geological time.

(3) DOCTOR TOO. “Tade Thompson: full-time doctor who finds energy for full-on writing career” – profiled in The Guardian.

After Anton Chekhov and Arthur Conan Doyle, Tade Thompson is the latest in a long line of medical doctors who have become writers.

Thompson is a full-time hospital psychiatrist, who writes science fiction, fantasy and crime thrillers that have received rave reviews and prizes, but he has no intention of giving up the day job, somehow fitting in everything by writing in the early hours.

A fierce bidding war has finally concluded over the film rights to his Molly Southbourne novellas, a nightmarish psychological story about a girl who, when she bleeds, creates duplicates of herself who want to kill her.

The rights have gone to Complete Fiction, the film company the director Edgar Wright and the producer Nira Park set up with their long-time collaborators the writer-director Joe Cornish and the producer Rachael Prior. They will transform the stories into a multi-season television series in collaboration with Netflix. Thompson is executive producing it and may write an episode or two…

(4) SPORTS SECTION. [Item by Steven H Silver.] Where else would you expect to find a mention of Gene Wolfe except in an article about an Argentine football manager published on an Indian website? “Marcelo Bielsa: Genius That’s Hard to Miss, Harder to Notice, Impossible to Fathom”.

In April last year, at the age of 87, the writer Gene Wolfe died of heart disease in Illinois. For science fiction fans, Wolfe was a cult figure, a modern day savant whose writing only a few could understand, and yet unanimously admired. His books never sold much, and yet he is widely regarded as the greatest American science fiction writer of all time. All his obituaries, while admiring and respectful, had an underlying theme, a question that invariably also followed a huge amount of his literary work. His writing, and its implications, were so challenging and polarising that everyone seemed to question what kind of greatness it was.

The reason to bring up Wolfe is because Marcelo Bielsa is back in business. Talking about Bielsa even more so. The mad stories, legends and myths about this football obsessed, workaholic, crazy, maniacal Argentinian cult figure, spoken about in hushed tones (and loud yells) in football circles across the world, have become mainstream over the past few years….

(5) AT THE ALTER. Lucas Adams reviews the exhibition in “Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality” in the New York Review of Books.

… Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”

…Among them is Futurian War Digest by J. Michael Rosenblum, a British science fiction zine the conscientious objector made during World War II, featuring spacefaring adventurers, robot love affairs, and more. The police kept an eye on Rosenblum during the war, out of concern that he was “publishing seditious materials and of collecting contraband ink and paper,” the museum wall text explains, but one look at its simple but fanciful black-and-white illustrations, and it’s clear this was simply a creative outlet in the midst of a war.

Also on view is work by Herman Poole Blount, better known as the Jazz musician Sun Ra, one of the pioneers of Afro-futurism. In the late 1930s, Sun Ra experienced a life-altering vision in which he went to Saturn and met aliens, and discovered he was not an Earthling, but actually a citizen of outer-space. Ra’s creation of a new identity allowed him to free himself from societal constraints, or as the exhibition’s free zine puts it: “As an interstellar visitor, Sun Ra wasn’t subject to racial violence–he was someone, from somewhere, else.”

(6) SAXON OBIT. Actor John Saxon, known for his roles in three Nightmare on Elm Street movies and Enter the Dragon died July 25 at the age of 83 reports the Chicago Sun-Times. His horror résumé also includes two films for Roger Corman: Queen of Blood (1966) and Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), playing a tyrannical warlord.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 26, 1968 Mission Mars premiered. (Called Murder in the Third Dimension in the U.K.) Directed by Nick Webster, it was produced by Everett Rosenthal from a screenplay by Mike St. Clair with the story being written by Aubrey Wisberg. The cast was  Darren McGavin, Nick Adams, George De Vries and Michael DeBeausset. Not a single critic at the time like it with one saying it was just a “conventional monster movie” and another commenting that it was “plodding, dull and amateurish“. There’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 26, 1856 – George Bernard Shaw.  This great playwright, radical, and wise guy did some SF; Man and SupermanBack to MethuselahAndrocles and the LionToo True to Be Good, a few more; two dozen short stories; outside our field, essays, music criticism, plays, preachments.  “My method is to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity.”  Nobel Prize.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1885 – Paul Bransom.  Illustrated The Wind in the WillowsJust-So Stories; comic strip The Latest News from Bugville for The New York Evening Journal.  Fifty books of wildlife subjects.  Many fine Saturday Evening Post covers.  Clinedinst Medal.   Here are Ratty and the Wayfarer from Willows, and here is Pan.  Here is “The stork was as hungry as when she began” from An Argosy of Fables.  Here is Buck leaping in the air from The Call of the Wild.  Here is a cover with Joseph Gleeson for Just-So Stories.  (Died 1979) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1894 – Aldous Huxley.  Many know his masterpiece Brave New World, with everything wrong and people made to love it, translated into Bulgarian, Dutch, French, Galician, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish; some, his other SF e.g. After Many a Summer Dies the Swan; his last, Island, with everything right, may be weaker.  More novels, essays, short stories, plays and screenplays, poetry, travel.  Pacifist and psychedelicist.  (Died 1963) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1928 —  Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just too damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.) (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1929 – Lars-Olov Strandberg.  Co-founded SFSF (Scandinavian SF Ass’n); chairman, secretary, or treasurer of its board continuously 1965-2011.  Life-long photographer, thus documenting SF cons (see e.g. this fine photo of Kathy & Drew Sanders’ entry in the Masquerade costume competition at Seacon ’79 the 37th Worldcon).  Linked Swedish fandom to Denmark, Norway, the United Kingdom.  Alvar Appeltofft Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at Swecon 2, Interaction the 63rd Worldcon.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1939 – Steve Francis, 81.  Some become all-round fans from fanzines; he, from the Dealers’ Room.  With wife Sue, mainstays of Rivercon during its twenty-five years; together, Fan Guests of Honor at MidSouthCon 10, Marcon 27, DeepSouthCon 33, Con*Stellation XX.  Rebel and Rubble Awards.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegates.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  Scheduled to be Fan Guests of Honor at the cancelled 14th NASFiC (North America SF Con, since 1975 held when the Worldcon is overseas) this year.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 75. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 75. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1969 Tim Lebbon, 50. For my money, his best series is The Hidden Cities one he did with Christopher Golden, though his Relics series with protagonist Angela Gough is quite superb as well. He dips into the Hellboy universe with two novels, Unnatural Selection and Fire Wolves, rather capably. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1971 – Mary Anne Mohanraj, Ph.D., 49.  Co-founded Strange Horizons, editor four years; editor for ten issues of Jaggery. One SF novel, three others; two dozen shorter SF stories of which three in Wild Cards, a dozen others; essays in SHFantasyUncanny; interviewed in LightspeedLocusMithila; edited WisCon Chronicles9.  Gardener and cook.  [JH]
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 42. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. (CE)
  • Born July 26, 1978 – Elizabeth Tudor, 42.  Azerbaijani lawyer and SF author.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Here is her Authors Guild page.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld:

(10) RNZ BOOSTS THE SIGNAL. Here’s a first taste of Worldcon coverage in New Zealand’s mainstream media: “World Science Fiction Convention hosted by NZ” at RNZ. Hear audio of the broadcast at the link.

Ten years of planning have gone into New Zealand’s first time hosting the World Science Fiction Convention. Several thousand ardent fans, guests and speakers were due to come to Wellington from around the world – about now.

But organiser Lynelle Howells says the show must go on – and it will this Wednesday to Sunday, in the virtual realm – more than 750 planned talks, sessions and workshops will be beamed out around the world online.

“The world science fiction convention is held in a different city every year, so for it to come down to New Zealand is a really big deal; then of course Covid happened. It’s the first time anybody’s tried to run a WorldCon virtually, but needs must,” she says.

(11) WORDLESS IN GEHENNA. At The Wertzone, Adam Whitehead reports “Patrick Rothfuss’s editor confirms she is yet to read a single word of THE DOORS OF STONE”.

In somewhat surprising news, Patrick Rothfuss’s editor Betsy Wollheim has reported that she is yet to read any material from his next novel, The Doors of Stone, the third and concluding volume in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and notes a lack of communication on the book’s progress.

Rothfuss shot to fame with the first book in the trilogy, The Name of the Wind, in 2007. With over 10 million sales, The Name of the Wind became one of the biggest-selling debut fantasy novels of the century. The second book, The Wise Man’s Fear, did as well on release in 2011. Nine years later, the third book remains unpublished.

The Doors of Stone is probably the second-most-eagerly-awaited fantasy novel of the moment, behind only George R.R. Martin’s The Winds of Winter, which it actually exceeds in waiting time (though only by five months). Martin has provided updates on The Winds of Winter, albeit extremely infrequent ones, but has recently reported much more significant progress being made. Rothfuss, on the other hand, has maintained near constant zero radio silence on the status of book in recent years, despite posting a picture of an apparently semi-complete draft in 2013 that was circulating among his beta readers….

(12) THE GREATEST STAR TREK SERIES YOU’RE NOT WATCHING. So says Space Command creator Marc Zicree.

I’m the author of The Twilight Zone Companion and also a writer for such shows as Star Trek – The Next Generation, Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, Sliders and many others.

Recently, I’ve been shooting a new show that I wanted to share with you. And if you can share it with your fans, that would be great (and let them know we have a Kickstarter campaign going in order to shoot more).

It’s called Space Command,

The Kickstarter is to fund the fifth episode, which is a little bit confusingly called “SPACE COMMAND Episode 4 – FORGIVENESS PART 2”. As of today they’ve raised $26,798 of the $48,000 goal, with 17 days left to go.

The show’s cast (with some of their previous genre credits) includes Doug Jones (Star Trek Discovery, Shape of Water); Christina Moses (A Million Little Things); Neil deGrasse Tyson (Cosmos); Mira Furlan (Lost, Babylon 5); Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek); Robert Picardo (Star Trek Voyager, The Orville); Mike Harney (Orange is the New Black, Project Blue Book); Bruce Boxleitner (Supergirl, Babylon 5, Tron); Bill Mumy (Lost In Space, Babylon 5); Ethan McDowell (Doom Patrol); Barbara Bain (Space: 1999, Mission Impossible); Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine, Buffy).

  • The Pilot Episode
  • The Animatic Prequel —  (combining the completed audio play with the work-in-progress graphic novel).
  • Our Special Two-Part Pandemic Episode

(13) WANDERERS. In Ken Kalfus’ story “In Little America” at N+1 Magazine, Americans become the world’s illegal migrants.

…For ten months or so I belonged to a crew on a container ship flying a flag of convenience. My passport wouldn’t allow me ashore in most ports. The borderless, visa-free ocean was my home.

The American catastrophe had meanwhile entered a new phase that drained the world of any cruel pleasure it had taken in our downfall. Now the overwhelming sentiment was pity. I followed the news with averted eyes….

(14) YOU MAY HAVE ALREADY WON. “Human-sized robot presents lottery winner with check in Quebec”.

The first in-person check presented to a lottery winner in Quebec since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was presented by an official immune to the disease — a human-sized robot.

Loto-Quebec said it employed the use of a robot designed by a student club at the Montreal-based Ecole de Technologie Superieure, in partnership with Centech, to present Guylaine Desjardins with her check for $4.47 million.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, Steven H Silver, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Ttle credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 7/14/20 No Space Suit? No Service!

(1) WHERE TO FIND WHO. HBO Max did this video meetup to promote that they are now the exclusive outlet for Doctor Who Seasons 1-11. (Future season/specials will premiere on BBC AMERICA.)

Moderated by Terri Schwartz of IGN, HBO Max, in partnership with BBC America, presents the first-ever, historic meeting of The Doctors: Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and David Tennant.

(2) LIKE YOU NEED TEENY TINY BRANDING IRONS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Remember the Cordwainer Smith story with the laminated mouse brain? here is a picture of a mouse brain slice that won a prize: “Extreme closeup of mouse-brain slice wins top Life Science Microscopy prize” at Ars Technica.

Spain’s Ainara Pintor snagged the top honor from over 400 submissions with her gorgeous image of an immunostained mouse-brain slice, titled Neurogarden. The image focuses on the hippocampus area of a single slice, but there are more than 70 million neurons in the mouse brain as a whole, according to Pintor.

(3) THE MAINSTREAM GOES FILK. [Item by Rob Thornton.] A new musical genre named “bardcore” has emerged, in which musicians create medievalized versions of pop tunes reports The Guardian: “Never mind the ballads! How bardcore took over pop music”.

Is [it] a big thing? Where on earth have you been for the past two months? Bardcore is booming online, swarming all over YouTube and Reddit, and appealing to what i-D Magazine calls Generation Z’s ‘existential humour’.

Here is a bardcore version of Radiohead’s “Creep” as done by the musician Hildegard von Blingin’.

(4) OLD GUARD REVIEW. NPR’s Linda Holmes reports that “‘The Old Guard’ Is A Smart Blend Of Action And Emotion”.

…Here’s a quandary: How do you make a compelling movie — one with a good measure of fairly graphic violence, by the way — about a group of heroes who can’t be killed? Don’t they always have the upper hand? Won’t they always win? There are clever ways that the story itself gets around this problem, but it’s also absolutely critical that it’s in the hands of a director who understands, and can convey on film, that link between physical vulnerability and humanity. Because one of the things this story is about is that even if you do not die, the pain of cycling through injury after injury, recovery after recovery, reconstitution after reconstitution of your being, is a hard way to exist.

It’s a story that’s partly about the attrition of your spirit that can come from being, very literally, a “survivor.” And particularly because new recruit Nile (KiKi Layne, whom you know from If Beale Street Could Talk) is a black woman and two of her teammates are men who fell in love after being on opposite sides of The Crusades (which is a witty idea, let’s be honest), there is additional subtext here about the churn of violence and the costs of enduring it. Moreover, in a world seized with emergencies that activists are scrambling to address, it is frustrating enough when you feel like years have passed and all the attempts you have made to improve the world have come to nothing. What would it be like to feel that for centuries? For longer? Would you really want the long view? How much perspective could you stand to have about humanity?

More immediately, the plot is this: Andy (Theron) has been doing this the longest. She wants out of the hero business, really, but she can’t escape. She’s pulled into a job with teammates Booker (Matthias Schoenaerts), Joe (Marwan Kenzari) and Nicky (Luca Marinelli). The job, conveyed to them by a man named Copley (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is to rescue a group of kidnapped girls in South Sudan. How can they say no? When it turns out there’s more to the job than meets the eye, she’s confronted by the fact that there are people out there who know about her and her team and wish them no good.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, Nile is a young soldier consumed with the wars of the present, and shortly after she discovers that something is very unusual about her response to injury, she winds up in the company of the Old Guard. (They don’t go around calling themselves that, by the way; it would be very corny. And they don’t do it.)

This is the first film I’ve seen in quarantine that felt to me like a proper big summer movie — and yet it transcends so much of what’s sometimes been disappointing about that category. Yes, it’s a comic book movie. Yes, it’s an action movie. Yes, it’s about a team of good-doers. And it’s exciting and satisfying and tense and all those things. But everything from its queer couple to its leading women to its director to its thoughtfulness to its point of view about violence makes it such a welcome addition….

(5) A SHORTER REVIEW OF SOMETHING EVEN OLDER. Brooke Bolander has a concise take. Thread starts here.

(6) THE CUPBOARD IS SEMI-BARE. Variety says transforming San Diego Comic-Con into an online experience has an extra challenge – how to bake a cake without all the usual ingredients: “Comic-Con ‘At Home’ Aims to Rescue Fandom’s Biggest Week — Even If Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm Are No-Shows”.

Indeed, almost no feature films announced panels for Comic-Con@Home. Paramount, Sony, and Universal are sitting out the convention entirely, while WarnerMedia’s DC Entertainment elected to launch their own virtual fan convention — DC FanDome on Aug. 22 — to promote its suite of film, TV and comic book properties.

The biggest blow for Comic-Con@Home, however, is arguably the lack of participation from marquee Comic-Con participants Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm, which aren’t bringing any of their features or live-action scripted TV series to Comic-Con@Home. Fans had been especially anticipating first looks at Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate, including theatrical releases “Eternals” and “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and Disney Plus series “Falcon and the Winter Solider” and “WandaVision.”

(7) SFWA DEI. The members of SFWA’s newly-formed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee are:

  • Alaya Dawn Johnson – traditional novelist
  • Alex Acks – traditional novelist 
  • Crystal Watanabe – freelance editor
  • James Beamon – SFWA director-at-large, short fiction writer
  • Jane Pinckard  – writer, game designer, researcher, teacher
  • Kyle Aisteach  – short fiction writer
  • Michi Trota – SFWA Editor-in-Chief, critical and creative nonfiction writer
  • Tao Roung Wong – indie novelist
  • Whitney “Strix” Beltrán – game writer

The committee is developing procedures, and setting its action and scope, and will update the membership soon. 

(8) IMAHARA OBIT. Grant Imahara, host of MythBusters’ and White Rabbit Project, has died at the age of 49. The Hollywood Reporter story is here.

…While as part of the MythBusters team he sky-dived and drove stunt cars, on film sets he came into contact with some of the most iconic characters in screen history, installing lights onto Star Wars‘ R2-D2, creating the robot Geoff Peterson for The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson and working on the Energizer Bunny.

…In his nine years at Lucasfilm, he worked for the company’s THX and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) divisions. In his years at ILM, he became chief model maker specializing in animatronics and worked on George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels, as well as The Matrix ReloadedThe Matrix RevolutionsGalaxy QuestXXX: State of the UnionVan HelsingThe Lost World: Jurassic ParkA.I. Artificial Intelligence and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

In 2000, Imahara also competed in Comedy Central’s BattleBots with a robot he built himself called “Deadblow” that won two Middleweight Rumbles, was the first season’s Middleweight runner-up and became the third season’s first-ranked robot.

He was also an actor on The Guild and Star Trek Continues (as Sulu in the latter.)

John Scalzi, who knew him from a JoCo Cruise, wrote a short farewell.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 14, 1989 Muppets From Space premiered. It is the first film since the death of Jim Henson to have an original Muppet-focused plot, and is a breakaway from other Muppet films as it is the only non-musical Muppets film to date. Directed by Tim Hill, it was produced by Brian Henson and Martin G. Baker off a script written by Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino and Ken Kaufman. It starred Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz (in his last Muppet role), Jeffrey Tambor, F. Murray Abraham,  David Arquette, Josh Charles,  Hollywood Hogan, Ray Liotta and Andie MacDowell. Some critics really loved it, some really despised it and mourned the passing of Henson. It bombed at the box office. At Rotten Tomatoes, audience reviewers give it a not bad 58% rating.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 14, 1918 – Ingmar Bergman.  Director, writer, producer of film, television, theater, radio; questioning, perhaps re-creating, the human condition.  Five dozen films, fifteen dozen plays, half a dozen ours; one is Mozart’s Magic Flute; perhaps not The Magician, whose characters prove to be engaged in theatrical, not supernatural, magic.  Three Academy Awards, Golden Bear at Berlin, Palme des Palmes at Cannes, many more. (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1926 – Jef De Wulf.  For us two dozen covers for works in French, like this and this; also this; five hundred all told.  Had his own photography studio, in the end worked with the photo department of a regional newspaper.  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1926 Harry Dean Stanton. My favorite genre role for him? The video for Procul Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. No, I’m not kidding.  He also played Paul of Tarsus in The Last Temptation of Christ, Harold “Brain” Hellman in Escape from New York, Detective Rudolph “Rudy” Junkins in Christine, Bud in Repo Man, Carl Rod in Twin Peaks twice, Toot-Toot in The Green Mile, Harvey in Alien Autopsy and a Security Guard in The Avengers. He didn’t do a lot of genre tv, one episode of The Wild Wild West as Lucius Brand in “The Night of The Hangman” and a character named Lemon on Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the “Escape to Sonoita” episode. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1939 – George Slusser, Ph.D.  Eight books of SF criticism; anthologies of papers at U. Cal. Riverside’s Eaton Conference; Professor of Comparative Literature, first Curator of the Eaton Collection, Director of the Eaton Program for SF Studies.  “Clarke, along with Asimov and Heinlein … human dramas determined by advances in science and technology… to blend two otherwise opposite activities.”  Pilgrim Award.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1943 Christopher Priest, 77. This is the Birthday of the One and True Christopher Priest. If I was putting together an introductory reading list to him, I’d start with The Prestige, add in the Islanders and its companion volume, The Dream Archipelago. Maybe Inverted World as well. How’s that sound?  (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1949 Nick Bantock, 71. This is a bit of a puzzler for me. He’s the creator of The Griffin and Sabine Trilogy and The Morning Star Trilogy, a series of faux letters and postcards telling a story between two individuals. ISFDB lists it as genre but I’ve never heard it described as such before, and it certainly isn’t shelved as such in bookstores that I’ve frequented. Who’s read it here? (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1960 – Michèle de Laframboise, 60.  A dozen novels for us, as many shorter stories in Abyss & ApexGalaxiesTesseract (“Women Are From Mars, Men Are From Venus”); others too.  For one of her books she did this cover with Jean-Pierre Normand.  Translated into German, Italian, Russian.  Three Auroras, Prix Cécile-GagnonPrix Solaris.  Website (in English and French, of course) here.  [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1960 – Larry Segriff, 60.  Two novels of Tom Jenkins, a young adult who finds adventure in the stars.  Ten shorter stories.  Three Tom Clancy Net Force tie-ins.  Ten anthologies with Martin H. Greenberg.  Productive and competent.  [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1964 Jane Espenson, 56. She had a five-year stint as a writer and producer on Buffy the Vampire Slayer where she shared a Hugo Award at Torcon 3 for her writing on the “Conversations with Dead People” episode, and she shared another Hugo at Chicon 7 for Games of Thrones, season one. She was on the the writing staff for the fourth season of Torchwood and executive produced Caprica. And yes, she had a stint on the rebooted Galactica. (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1966 Brian Selznick, 54. Illustrator and writer best known as the writer of The Invention of Hugo Cabret which may or may not be genre. You decide. His later work, Wonderstruck, definitely is. The Marvels, a story of a travelling circus family is magical in its own right though not genre.  (CE)
  • Born July 14, 1979 – Yukiko Montoya, 41.  Novelist, playwright and theatrical director, radio and television host.  Akutagawa, Noma, Mishima, Ôe Prizes; Nanboku and Kishida Drama Awards.  Recent collection in English, The Lonesome Bodybuilder.  The New York Times says she wins over her audience by pushing the absurd to extremes.  For example, in “The Straw Husband” the narrator’s husband is –    [JH]
  • Born July 14, 1989 Sara Canning, 31. Major roles in A Series of Unfortunate Events,  Primeval: New World and The Vampire Dairies, she also appeared in Once Upon a TimeWar for the Planet Of The ApesAndroid EmployedSupernatural and Smallville to name some of her other genre work. (CE) 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

TwistedDoodles translates parenting into genre:  

(12) MR. RICO GOES TO WASHINGTON. David Gerrold told Facebook readers “Starship Troopers is the single most misunderstood book in the entire SF genre.” An excerpt:

….Now, to be fair — Heinlein stacked the deck. Not the first time, not the last time. In this book, the enemy exist as a relentless, unending horde of mindless giant insects. Bugs. There is nothing there to empathize with. They are killing machines — chitinous terminators. The only response is kill or be killed. And in that context, Heinlein’s assertin is justifiable.

Now, consider if the enemy was not some kind of alien bug — but instead, another branch of humanity. Or even just another nation with a shared border. And consider that the battle is not so much a fight to the death, but an argument over whether eggs should be broken at the big end or the little end. At that point, the whole discussion of military service breaks down with one simple question, “Are you fucking kidding me? You want me to die on that fucking hill?”

Second question? How well did Heinlein do it? Well, we’re still talking about the book 60 years later, so I would say that he did a damn good job. Except that we’re not just talking about the book, we’re arguing ferociously about it. So maybe his point wasn’t as clear as he intended it to be. The accusations of fascism have pretty much obscured the more interesting point, which is worth discussion even if we’re not at war:

What is the obligation of a citizen toward the nation in which he lives? If the citizen benefits from their participation, what is their obligation — but also if the citizen does not benefit, what are their options?…

(13) STAR WARS IN THE NEWS. From the New York Times article, “Headed to the Convention? No I, More Republicans are Saying”:

…Everyone in the media wants to act like it’s some big deal that Susan Collins and Lamar Alexander aren’t going to the convention,” said Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida. “The reality is the number of delegates craving the octogenarians and septuagenarians of the Senate are surely lower than the number who have purchased their third Star Wars costume….

(14) A HIPPER FLIPPER. “Robot dolphins: the cruelty-free £20m ‘animal’ you can’t tell from the real thing”The Guardian will tell you call about it.

…They can respond to questions, swim happily in shopping mall display tanks, and withstand close contact that would usually be harmful to real animals – without any ethical problems. And they could soon be coming to aquariums in China.

Entrepreneurs in New Zealand are working with American creators of some of Hollywood’s most famous creatures to develop animatronic dolphins that look almost identical to their living counterparts.

A robotic dolphin that can nod an answer to a child – thanks to the human controlling it by remote – might sound unappealing or disconcerting. But as marine parks around the world face increasing pressure to abandon exhibitions featuring real whales and dolphins, the creatures provide an appealing alternative, their creators say.

(15) THE PICTURE OF HEALTH. “The new tattoo: Drawing electronics on skin:” Tagline: “MU engineers discover the possibility of using pencils to draw bioelectronics on human skin.”

… Since its invention, pencils — made of lead including various levels of graphite, clay and wax — have often been used for writing and drawing. In the study, the researchers discovered that pencils containing more than 90% graphite are able to conduct a high amount of energy created from the friction between paper and pencil caused by drawing or writing. Specifically, the researchers found pencils with 93% graphite were the best for creating a variety of on-skin bioelectronic devices drawn on commercial office copy paper. Yan said a biocompatible spray-on adhesive could also be applied to the paper to help it stick better to a person’s skin.

(16) THE PERFECT IS THE ENEMY. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the animated series Close Enough, which premiered on the channel last week.

(17) THE LIGHTS IN THE STY ARE NOT STARS. Elly Griffiths speculates about “Why Marshes Capture Our Imaginations—And Inspire Some Of Our Most Unsettling Folklore” at CrimeReads.

…I first came across this legend when I was researching a book, which was subsequently called The Lantern Men. I soon found out that there are many myths and legends about mysterious lights appearing on marshland at night. One version links them to a wicked blacksmith called Jack who tricks the devil and so escapes hell but can never be allowed into heaven. Jack is condemned to walk the earth forever, carrying a single coal from hell inside a pumpkin. The tradition of putting lighted candles into pumpkins at Halloween, also known as jack o’ lanterns, probably comes from this fable.

Jack is not the only creature abroad at night. Sometimes the blacksmith is called Will and, in English folklore,  marsh lights are often called will o’ the wisps, wisp meaning a bundle of twigs tied together to make a torch.  There are some regional variations, hobby lanterns in the north and pixie lights in Devon and Cornwall, where hapless travelers are said to be ‘pixie led’.

(18) HOPE AND GLORY. BBC says “‘Hope’ and ambition drive UAE’s Mars mission”.

The United Arab Emirates will despatch a satellite to Mars to study its weather and climate this week.

Hope, as the 1.3-tonne probe is called, is launching on an H-2A rocket from Japan’s remote Tanegashima spaceport.

The 500-million-km journey should see the robotic craft arrive in February 2021 – in time for the 50th anniversary of the UAE’s formation.

Lift-off is scheduled for 05:43 local time on Friday (20:43 GMT; 21:43 BST on Thursday).

An earlier attempt on Wednesday was called off ahead of time because of expected poor weather conditions over Tanegashima.

…Why is the UAE going to Mars?

The UAE has limited experience of designing and manufacturing spacecraft – and yet here it is attempting something only the US, Russia, Europe and India have succeeded in doing. But it speaks to the Emiratis’ ambition that they should dare to take on this challenge.

Their engineers, mentored by American experts, have produced a sophisticated probe in just six years – and when this satellite gets to Mars, it’s expected to deliver novel science, revealing fresh insights on the workings of the planet’s atmosphere.

In particular, scientists think it can add to our understanding of how Mars lost much of its air and with it a great deal of its water.

The Hope probe is regarded very much as a vehicle for inspiration – something that will attract more young people in the Emirates and across the Arab region to take up the sciences in school and in higher education.

(19) UNWRAPPED BOXING DAY. “Rare Super Mario becomes highest-selling video game”.

A rare version of the classic 1985 Super Mario Bros has sold at auction for $114,000 (£90,000), the most ever paid for a video game.

The cartridge, still in its original packaging, sold to an anonymous bidder.

And the US auctioneer said demand “was extremely high”, partly because this particular packaging had been used for a short while only.

The previous record for an auctioned game was $100,000 – for a different copy of Super Mario.

(20) NOT ZERO YET. In Godzilla:  King of the Monsters Pitch Meeting on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film has lots of characters who utter “science words” and Snarky Countdown Guy, who is snarky when he isn’t counting things down.

[Thanks to Rob Thornton, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Daniel Dern, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/20 Pixel Number 8 Will Make You Cry. Pixel Number 2 Has Surprised Us All

(1) COLSON WHITEHEAD FETED BY LOC. He’s the youngest person to get this recognition: “Library of Congress to honor author Colson Whitehead.

Already this year’s recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the Orwell Prize for political fiction, Whitehead is now being honored by the Library of Congress. On Monday, it announced that he had won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction.

Whitehead, 50, is the youngest winner of the lifetime achievement prize, which the library has previously given to Toni Morrison, Philip Roth and Denis Johnson, among others. He is the first author to win Pulitzers for consecutive works of fiction — “The Underground Railroad” and “The Nickel Boys,” for which he won in April.

(2) WHY HE HAD TO LEAVE. Edmund Schluessel reports on his experiences with Finncon 2020, which took place this past Friday-Sunday online and was based in Tampere, Finland. “Finncon 2020. So.”

I was quite sanguine about Finncon 2019. I praised the “more thriving, more diverse, more accepting community” I had found in Finland.

Thus this post is difficult to write. I’ll start with the part of Finncon 2020 I was there for, then talk about why I had to leave….

(3) HOLIDAY ON KLENDATHU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing at The Verge, Joshua Rivera examines the legacy and impact of Paul Verhoeven’s 1997 film adaptation of Starship Troopers, linking to several other articles that examine the movie’s newfound relevance to America’s current political divisions. I know this film gets debated endlessly around these parts, but to my eye, the fact that a quarter century later people outside the SFF community are still debating its meaning and parsing its subtext is a good indication that Starship Troopers has enduring value. “The world is finally coming around to Starship Troopers”

I’m here to see the fireworks, and rare is the blockbuster that is interested in forcing me to question that.

(4) SAME BAT-TIME, SAME BAT-DISTANCE. Shelf Awareness shows how it’s done genre-style in “Social Distancing at Atomic Books”.

(5) SWEDISH HOPES UP. Fantastika, the Swedish national con or Swecon, is off for this year so they’ve named a date for the event in 2021. (We had the cancellation a few days ago, but not the new date.)

The Committee has decided to cancel the convention in October due to the corona pandemic. We have instead booked the venue, Dieselverkstaden, for the weekend April 9-11, 2021, i e the weekend after Easter. We sincerely hope that it will be possible to have the convention at that time. Please note that this is not the same date as the one that we previously considered.

If you wish to have the membership refunded you need to send me an e-mail with information on how I should send it, e g via PayPal. If you have already got a refund you are of course welcome to pay the membership again.

Please see further information on https://fantastika2020.com/

(6) DEEPSOUTHCON HOPES DOWN BUT NOT OUT. CONtraflow chair Frank Schiavo told Facebook followers the event (which is also this year’s DeepSouthCon) has been postponed to 2021. But there may be a virtual DeepSouthCon on the original weekend.

After much discussion, long board meetings, working back and forth with the host hotel, city/parish/state leadership, and Southern Fandom Confederation/Deep South Con representatives , the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion: under current conditions, we cannot give you the amazing Fan experience that you all have come to expect from the previous nine years of CONtraflow. We must reschedule CONtraflow 10, originally scheduled for this coming November 13-15.  Hosting our convention as usual in 2020 is impossible in these pandemic conditions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future.  There are simply too many unknowns at play at this time.  Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow 10.  Please know this decision is as tough and painful for us as it is for all of you.  We didn’t make it lightly and hope you will support our decision.

I am sure most of you have questions about the rescheduled event. I’ll try to answer a few of the big ones.

The new date for CONtraflow 10 is October 1-3, 2021 at the Airport Hilton in Kenner, Louisiana.   We are currently working on guests and speakers for the new convention dates.  We’ll have a first flier about the new dates up on social media for you to share in the next few days. We are planning to have a more detailed flier with guests and major events up and out there online before the end of September.

…As for the DeepSouthCon 58 (2020) to be hosted by CONtraflow this year,  there are plans for a virtual DeepSouthCon 58 mini convention featuring panels, programming, the annual SFC meeting and the Hearts tournament, and more on the Saturday of the original convention weekend (November 14, 2020).  We are working out the details of online hosting and any possible costs and will be updating you with details of the virtual DSC in the coming weeks….

(7) A STRANGE PROLOGUE. Rob Hansen has added “THE 1971 EASTERCON” to his THEN British fanhistory website, complete with the usual cornucopia of photos. It includes this account of a bizarre chain of events:

THE BRIAN ALDISS GoH SAGA – Peter Weston

At SCI-CON 70:

Brian confided that this was the second time he had been asked to be Guest of Honour but had then been required to step down. We were suitably shocked, as he went on to explain how he had been invited as GoH for 1969 in Oxford, but when a new committee had taken over, headed by John Brunner, they had wanted to have Judith Merril instead. George Hay had heard about this, thought it was a bit poor, and so he had asked Brian to be GoH in 1970, which he had accepted. Then George heard that James Blish was moving to England and he did exactly the same thing, pushing out Brian once again in favour of a supposed bigger “name.” Rog and I were suitably disgusted, and promptly offered to make amends. We would bid for the 1971 Eastercon and would do it properly. We promised to find a decent hotel and make Brian our Guest of Honour. (p.191)

***

Suddenly, however, we hit double trouble. Brian Aldiss resigned as Guest of Honour, and this was immediately followed by the start of a postal strike. Brian’s letter was a bombshell! The only reason Rog and I had taken on the convention was to do justice to him, and now he was dropping out for no very good reason, saying vaguely that he “might be living in Hong Kong for a while.”

(8) INSIDE THE STORY. The Odyssey Writing Workshop does a Q&A with a graduate: “Interview: Graduate Corry L. Lee”.

What’s the biggest weakness in your writing these days, and how do you cope with it?

I mentioned cross-tension earlier, which I love. The thorn in my side, however, is forward tension.

To start us on the same page, by forward tension I mean the often external plot tension that pulls a reader through the story. In my Bourshkanya Trilogy, this tends to be resistance activities to weaken or tear down the fascist state. In general, fighting the big bad, and the sequence of events that leads to it, tends to be high in forward tension as the characters try and fail, as the villain pursues them, etc.

Cross-tension, by contrast, occurs between characters who have opposing, potentially unreconcilable beliefs. Both characters may try to do what they believe is right or necessary, may even care deeply for one another, but with the underpinnings of their belief structures in conflict, they’re forced onto opposite sides, e.g., a resistance fighter and a loyal State soldier. Secrets flourish in this soil, as do the juiciest (in my opinion) of all fiction elements: well-motivated, understandable yet heartbreaking betrayals. Or not. Opposing beliefs can be reconciled, which is part of what makes them so delightful. Cross-tension can also arise between a character and elements of the world, e.g., a resistance fighter who has to pretend loyalty to the State.

From my description, you can probably tell how much I love cross-tension. It makes my brain sing and is one reason I love having multiple POVs on both sides of a tricky moral line.

(9) HELP NEEDED. Jenny Parks, the author of Star Trek Cats (2017) and Star Trek: The Next Generation Cats (2018) has an online fundraiser for treatment of her Hodgkin’s lymphoma: “Jenny Parks Cancer Relief Fund”. As of today, people have donated $10,462 of the $25,000 goal. Ben Bird Person submitted the item with these images of “some of her art she’s done for me!”

(10) PRESTON OBIT. Actress Kelly Preston, whose best-known sff role was in the 1986 film Space Camp, died July 12 of cancer. (The New York Times tribute is here.)  She had a brief cameo with her husband John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000). On This Date In Science Fiction History takes an extended look at her genre resume in “Stardate 07.13.2020.A: In Memoriam – Kelly Preston”.

(11) CRAWFORD OBIT. Small press publisher Gary William Crawford (1953-2020) died July 9.He founded Gothic Press in 1979, serving as its editor, as well as the author of many published works in Gothic literature. 

From 1979 to 1987, Crawford produced six issues of the journal Gothic, and later, the press published the horror poetry magazine Night Songs. Crawford recently began the online journal, Le Fanu Studies.

(12) BRECHA OBIT. Sff writer F. Alexander Brejcha (1957-2019), whose first story was published in Analog in 1992, died in February 2019 it was recently learned. A collection of his short fiction, People First!!, was released in 2004, as was a collection of three novellas, No World Warranty.

(13) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • July 13, 1960 — Irwin Allen’s version of The Lost World premiered. Based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel. It was directed by him, produced by him with the assistance of Cliff Reid, and he wrote the screenplay with the help of Charles Bennett. The cast included Claude Rains, David Hedison, Fernando Lamas, Jill St. John, and Michael Rennie. Financing was so limited that the monsters were monitor lizards, iguanas, and crocodiles affixed with miniature horns and fins. Critics weren’t fond of it, it did poorly at the box office, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a scathingly poor 20% rating. 

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 13, 1796 – William Harvey.  Engraver and designer.  Woodblocks for e.g. Bewick’s Aesop, Northcote’s Fables, Lane’s Arabian Nights.  Here is “Ali of Cairo”; here is “The Merchant and the Jinni” (note, jinni is the singular, jinn the plural); here is “Sayf al-Muluk and Badi’a al-Jamal”.  Here is a portrait of Defoe, and title page, for Robinson Crusoe.  (Died 1866) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1864 – John Astor IV.  Possibly the richest man in the world when he went down with the Titanic; wrote A Journey in Other Worlds set in what is now our past, the year 2000, with travel to Jupiter and Saturn powered by antigravity. (Died 1912) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps.  (Died 1961.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 Robert H. Justman. Producer and director who worked on many a genre series including Adventures of SupermanThe Outer LimitsStar TrekMission: ImpossibleMan from Atlantis and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  He was the assistant director for the first two Star Trek episodes: “The Cage” and “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1926 – Dik Daniels.  For years a prominent photographer, to whom we owe many such records.  Widely, long, and uncelebratedly enough helpful that he was given the Big Heart, our highest service award. Some photos 1968-2001 on this Website.   (Died about 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he claims to have played three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Womblies, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart OBE, 80. Jean-Luc Picard, starting with being Captain of the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) on Star Trek: The Next Generation up though the current Star Trek: Picard. Also had some minor role in the MCU as Professor Charles Xavier, and played Leodegrance in Excalibur. Though not even genre adjacent, I’m fond of his role as King Henry II in The Lion in Winter. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 78. Three great roles of course. First, being Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. in the Indiana Jones franchise which is four films deep with a fifth on the way. The second, of course, being Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise, a role he’s done four times plus a brief cameo in The Rise of Skywalker. And the third being Rick Deckard in Blade Runner, a role he reprised for Blade Runner 2049. Oh ,and he played the older Indy at age fifty in the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles in the “Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues” episode. (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 67. To quote Fancyclopedia, Chip Hitchcock “is a con-running fan living in the Boston area. He is a member of NESFA and MCFI and has worked on a great many conventions including Worldcons at the Division Head level, Boskones and numerous other regionals.“ Happy Birthday, Chip!  (CE)
  • Born July 13, 1954 – Gary Feldbaum, 66.  First SF con, Boskone 15 (Fancyclopedia 3 and some others call the first Boskones I-V i.e. through 1945; the current ones, starting in 1965, 1-57 so far).  Moved to Philadelphia; happening to be a lawyer when one was wanted incorporated the Philadelphia SF Soc. (PSFS); chaired six Philcons.  Has worked on Worldcons on three continents.  Might be found heading a Division or ushering for the Masquerade.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1965 – Tomoyuki Hoshino, 55.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; nine more novels.  Bungei, Mishima, Noma, Ôe, Yomiuri, Tanizaki Prizes.  Born in Los Angeles, lived in Mexico long enough to get work in Japan translating Spanish-language movies.  Teaches creative writing at his alma mater Waseda U.  Me and the collection We, the Children of Cats are available in English.  [JH]
  • Born July 13, 1981 – Monica Byrne, 39.  The Girl in the Road won a Tiptree Award (as it then was); translated into German. Nine shorter stories in, on, or at Electric VelocipedeFantasyThe Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionShimmer.  Plays.  A TED Talk (Technology, Entertainment, Design).  Non-fiction in The AtlanticHuffington PostVirginia Quarterly Review.  Website.  [JH]

(15) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus has a toy that’s too big for the playroom.
  • Something Positive finds it’s too hard to separate the work from the artist.

(16) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart fills readers in about The Full Lid for 10th July 2020:

This week in The Full Lid we have a first!! Matt Wallace’s Savage Legion is out in a couple of weeks and as part of the coverage for it, I’m delighted to run an original flash fiction piece by Matt, along with one by myself. Matt’s one of my favorite writers and people and it’s a delight to see him doing excellent work like this piece and the upcoming novel.

Elsewhere I take a look at the graphic novel new Netflix movie The Old Guard was adapted from. Finally, I take a look at unfairly overlooked crime/science fiction/magic movie Sleight.

(17) KOWAL Q&A. Andrew Liptak’s Reading List has a substantial “Interview with Mary Robinette Kowal” filled with insights like this:

How did this all dovetail with your interest in science fiction?

There’s no point in my life when I don’t remember reading science fiction. My dad and I would — actually the whole family, but dad and I particularly — would listen to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy when it was on the radio. We’d watch Star TrekBattlestar Galactica; I read all of the things. But it is for me again, the thing that I said at the beginning about the ways science fiction and fantasy for me allows us to ask big questions.

Connie Willis set a thing once, which made me go “Oh, yes, that’s why I like it so much.” She said that she thinks that the difference between science fiction and fantasy and mimetic fiction or everyday fiction is that in mimetic fiction, you have ordinary problems, but then your character has to have an outsized or an extraordinary response to an ordinary problem. Like, someone’s husband is cheating on them, it’s not just, that they go stay with a family member; they go to the PTA and they stand on the table and they confront the person that he was having an affair with in order to drive the plot — you have to have this extraordinary reaction to cause the plot to move forward.

Whereas in science fiction and fantasy, we have extraordinary events taking place, which allows people to have normal, proportionate responses. And that made me understand part of why I like science fiction and fantasy, but it also made me realize that it gives us an opportunity to present a much more faithful representation of honest human emotion. The things that happen to us in our real world can be as as rocking or earth-shattering as a meteor hitting. There can be things that are as deeply traumatic. But most of those things aren’t enough to drive a plot. I feel like that’s doing a disservice to people who write mimetic naturalistic fiction, because I certainly have read stuff where people are having completely normal responses to completely normal events, but speaking in very general terms, it is an opportunity that science fiction offers.

(18) WITNESS SELF-PROTECTION PROGRAM. Frank Robinson’s early story, “Hunting Season” has been discovered and is going into production says The Hollywood Reporter: “James Wan, ‘John Wick’ Writer Derek Kolstad Team for Sci-Fi Time Travel Tale ‘Hunting Season'”.

…Robinson was one of the figures to come out of the mid-20th century sci-fi short story scene, penning techno-thrillers for various pulp publications. His thriller The Glass Inferno, written with Thomas Scortia, was one of two books that were combined to make the classic 1974 disaster film The Towering Inferno. He also was known for being the speechwriter for Harvey Milk, the gay San Francisco politician who was assassinated in 1978.

Hunting Season will follow a law officer from the future who is declared an enemy of the state and sentenced to be executed by being sent to the past and stalked by a posse. The man has three days to acclimate to his new era and find a way to survive.

(19) NO NORMAL CONQUEST. Steven H Silver’s new novel After Hastings is behind today’s Big Idea feature at Whatever: “The Big Idea: Steven H. Silver”.

While in grad school, one of the things my professors constantly warned against during discussions was falling into the trap of counterfactual speculation. When discussing and debating the causes and events of the medieval period, we were to confine ourselves to theories that could be supported by the primary sources and archaeological evidence. The fact that I did not become an historian and founded the Sidewise Award for Alternate History may give some indication of how well I adhered to those rules.

(20) PAGING DR. HOWARD, DR. FINE, DR. HOWARD… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Pick six of your most intelligent, fittest friends. Now imagine the seven of you are on a mission to Mars & you have appendicitis. Which friend do you pick to be your surgeon? Mind you, none of them have medical training. “From floating guts to ‘sticky’ blood – here’s how to do surgery in space” at The Conversation.

… Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been been carried out, albeit not on humans yet. For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, while in microgravity.

These surgeries have led to new innovations and improvements such as magnetising surgical tools so they stick to the table, and restraining the “surgeonaut” too.

One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through small incisions using a camera and instruments.

(21) DON’T LESNERIZE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Simon Denyer, Akiko Kashiwagi, and Min Joo Kim discuss how robots are being used in the pandemic in Japan and South Korea,  including Avatarin’s use of avatars and the robot in South Korean elementary schools who takes kids temperatures and maskshames them if their masks aren’t over their noses. “No masks, no coughs: Robots can be just what the doctor ordered in time of social distancing”.

Now, the patrol robot has been adapted so it can also disinfect surfaces as it patrols, and is attracting interest from Tokyo’s Metro stations as well as other businesses.

In May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted surging demand for unmanned deliveries and pledged to carry out tests to see if delivery robots were safe to use on roads and sidewalks by the end of the year.

Even the self-driving wheelchair can come into its own amid a coronavirus-filled world, the company said, potentially helping elderly people move around more independently without a helper who might be a vector for the virus.

(22) OVERTAKING. “Female gamers are on the rise in the ‘world capital of gaming'”.

The number of females playing video games in Asia is growing at a faster rate than their male rivals, according to the latest research.

Women are levelling the playing field across all of Asia’s key markets including China, India and Japan.

The female video gaming community grew by 19% last year, according to data commissioned by Google.

Asia is regarded as the global capital of video games, accounting for 48% of the world’s total gaming revenue.

…There are a number of factors that are contributing to this rise, with storylines becoming more inclusive and connectivity improving across the region.

For 2019, the numbers of female gamers had grown to 38% of the 1.33bn global gaming population, according to Google which collaborated with market researchers Niko Partners.

But for Asia, the proportion of female gamers is much higher. In China, they now account for 45%, while for South Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia the figure is 40%.

(23) ENVIRONMENTAL DRINKING. “Johnnie Walker whisky to be sold in paper bottles”. If this was Beam’s, could you imagine “Smooooth”-ing with a paper bottle?

Johnnie Walker, the whisky which traces its roots back 200 years, will soon be available in paper bottles.

Diageo, the drinks giant that owns the brand, said it plans to run a trial of the new environmentally-friendly packaging from next year.

While most Johnnie Walker is sold in glass bottles, the firm is looking for ways of using less plastic across its brands.

Making bottles from glass also consumes energy and creates carbon emissions.

To make the bottles, Diageo will co-launch a firm called Pulpex, which will also produce packaging for the likes of Unilever and PepsiCo.

Diageo’s paper whisky bottle, which will be trialled in spring 2021, will be made from wood pulp and will be fully recyclable, the company said.

The idea is that customers would be able to drop them straight into the recycling.

(24) TUCKER INTERVIEW, PART DEUX. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of the Bob Tucker interview done for Chicon 2000.

Dick Smith’s interview of Wilson “Bob” Tucker was done for Chicon 2000, that year’s World SF Convention. Here in Part 2, the stories keep coming (and Bob is an excellent storyteller). Tucker talks about Claude Degler’s first appearance in fandom and how Jack Speer (later Judge Speer) got into trouble. There’s more about Chicon 1, how he learned about the internet and how fandom has changed in the preceding 60 years. You’ll even hear how Bob ended up joining the N3F after decades in fandom.  Videography by Tom Veal, Chairman of Chicon 2000.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Mlex, Olav Rokne, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Ben Bird Person, John King Tarpinian, Rich Lynch, Steven H Silver, Michael Toman, John Hertz, JJ, Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 7/5/20 Voyage To The Bottom of the Wonderful Mushroom Planet

(1) LAST NIGHT IN MY HOMETOWN. LA County banned cities from hosting the usual Fourth of July public fireworks displays. But as you know, nature abhors a vacuum.

(2) LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS FEN. Camestros Felapton is firing up a new series of posts about the Best Fan Writer Hugo finalists. First on deck is: “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Cora Buhlert”.

… Cora has been doing the hard working of promoting self-published and small press SF&F for years. While sections of fandom have been trying to reframe publishing mode as some kind of partisan ideological battle, Cora has been writing, publishing and promoting indie sci-fi consistently and in a way designed to enhance science fiction writing….

(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. NPR takes “A Look Into The Wild Economy Of Tabletop Board Game Funding”.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic, tabletop board games were having something of a renaissance, with popular games like The Settlers of Catan and Ticket to Ride becoming mainstream additions to family game nights.

Then, COVID-19 hit and, as Quartz reported, it changed how many hobbyist board game creators approached the industry. But for many people who suddenly found themselves stuck at home under lockdown, the pandemic also spurred newfound interest in strategy games that require creativity and concentration. Board game hobbyists had more time to spend learning about new games coming out, while newbies to the scene were discovering a world beyond classics like Monopoly and Clue.

Then, on March 30, the board game Frosthaven — the dungeon crawling, highly-anticipated sequel to the hit game Gloomhaven — surpassed its funding goal of $500,000 on Kickstarter in mere hours. Today, it is the most-funded board game on the site ever, with nearly $13 million pledged toward funding the game’s development. Only two projects have ever crowdsourced more funding on the site.

Frosthaven’s success seemed to exemplify a shift that has been happening in the tabletop gaming community for years: toward games that are not only focused on strategy and adventure, but also a new type of funding model where fans have more say than ever in which games move from the idea stage to their living rooms. And hobbyist tabletop games are a different breed of entertainment altogether.

“You have mass market games, which are Monopoly and everything that you find at Target or Toys “R” Us, and you have hobbyist games, which you typically find at your FLGS — your friendly local gaming store,” said Cree Wilson, the programming and tabletop gaming manager for Comicpalooza. “Then there’s this blurry line of stuff in between, which I’ve heard sometimes called entertainment gaming, and it’s games selling tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of copies, but isn’t selling millions yet.”

For many of these smaller games, funding from fans has proved essential. Hasbro, the company that makes games like Monopoly and Connect 4, earns hundreds of millions each year through everything from game sales and licensing deals to its TV and film business. But funding models are far different for newer or smaller game makers. These makers have become part of one of the country’s most popular quarantine hobbies, but they’ve done so through a mini-economy that relies on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter.

(4) AI-YI-YI! “Star Trek’s Robert Picardo Sings About Not Being Brent Spiner in New Music Video”  – Comicbook.com sets the stage.

… “A few weeks ago, my friend and colleague Brent Spiner tweeted a hilarious musical spoof of himself that inspired me to do something in my characteristically more sophisticated manner, as an homage,” Picardo says in a statement about his new video. “My good friend James Marlowe (The Marlowe-Pugnetti Company) directed a crack mini-crew. Legendary event planner and TV personality Edward Perotti does a great cameo.”

And by popular demand, the Brent Spiner video he is reacting to:

(5) LAYING THE FOUNDATION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] WIRED talked to one of the principals on the upcoming Apple TV+ adaptation of the Foundation series: “The Producer of ‘Foundation’ on Asimov, Covid-19, and Race in Sci-Fi”.

The Covid-19 pandemic all but halted Hollywood. Production on most movies and television shows (except for a handful of  animated programs) became too risky, and ceased. It’s only in the last few weeks that organizations like SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America have begun publishing guidelines for how cast and crew members might safely return to work. In this lull, however, studios are still cobbling together their stockpiled footage and releasing tantalizing trailers for upcoming projects. The most recent to ricochet around the internet? A first look at Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s beloved Foundation series.

Even if you’ve never read the Asimov novels, which were first published in the 1950s, every science fiction fan has felt their influence, especially in genre classics like Star Wars. Much of the plot concerns the fall of a certain Galactic Empire (ahem), and a desperate, surprisingly math-heavy attempt to save human civilization from a vast, bleak dark age. Apple’s adaptation, which is due to hit the tech giant’s streaming platform sometime in 2021, features stars like Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Halt and Catch Fire) and, based on the first teaser, looks epic. One of the people behind that epic-ness is Leigh Dana Jackson, Foundation’s co-executive producer. He can’t talk much about his new show yet, but WIRED still picked his brain about Asimov, Covid-19, and genre fiction’s unique capacity to capture revolution.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Published fifty-nine years ago as a novel by Ace Books, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time started out as a two-part serial in Galaxy Magazine‘s March and April 1958 issues. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Novel or Novelette at Solacon. In general, it was well-received with Algis Budrys liking it but noting it was more of a play than an actual novel. In 2012, it was selected for inclusion in the Library of America’s two-volume compilation American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s. (CE)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 5, 1878 – Howard Brown.  A hundred covers for us, forty interiors; only a small part of his prodigious work.  Cover artist for Scientific American 1913-1931.  ArgosyRadio NewsScience and Invention.  Main cover artist for Astounding while Tremaine was editor.  Also Startling and Thrilling Wonder.  Here is the January 1934 Astounding.  Here is the November 1938.  Here is the May 1940 Startling.  Here is an interior for At the Mountains of Madness (April 1934 Astounding).  Here is HB’s cover for the April 1934 Astounding and a more detailed biography.  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1935 – John Schoenherr.  Two hundred covers, seven hundred interiors.  Here is Starship Troopers.  Here is The Tomorrow People.  Here is the August 1980 Analog.  Here is the March 1965 Analog with the beginning of Dune that made JS famous for illustrating this story.  Here is an interior for Children of Dune.  Here is his cover for Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon (1987) for which JS won the Caldecott Medal.  See also “The Role of the Artist in Science Fiction” (with Kelly Freas, Jack Gaughan, Eddie Jones, Karel Thole), Noreascon I Proceedings (29th Worldcon).  Here is Kurt Snavely’s treatment of JS.  Here is Ian Schoenherr’s.  Hugo for Best Pro Artist, 1965.  Guest of Honor at Boskone 14, Lunacon 25.  SF Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1941 Garry Kilworth, 79. The Ragthorn, a novella co-authored with Robert Holdstock, which won the World Fantasy Award. It’s an excellent read and it makes me wish I’d read other fiction by him. Anyone familiar with his work? (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1944 – Cathy Hill, 76.  Known in particular for drawing raccoons – cartoon raccoons.  Here is “Raccoons on the Moon”; here is “The Lisping Asteroid”, which was used for the cover of The “Rowrbrazzle” Sampler.  The raccoons even got involved with Cerebus the Aardvark; and CH published Mad Raccoons.  Here is an index of her comic-book work.  She’s done more, in and out of our field: here is Locus 52 from its fanzine days, with her logograph (note that her puzzled aliens get it wrong); here is her cover for the 1979 printing of The Blue Worldhere is her cover for the original Keep Watching the Skies! (note propeller beanie).  Here is a dinosaur she drew for Don Glut.  Her oil paintings will have to wait for another time.  [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1948 — William Hootkins. One of these rare performers who showed up playing secondary roles in a number of major film franchises. He was the Rebel pilot Jek Tono Porkins in Star Wars, he played Munson in the Flash Gordon film, he was Major Eaton, one of the two officers who gave Indy his orders in Raiders of The Lost Ark, and he was Lt Eckhardt in the 1989 Batman. (Died 2005.) (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1957 Jody Lynn Nye, 63. She’s best-known for collaborating with Robert Asprin on the ever so excellent MythAdventures series.  Since his death, she has continued that series and she is now also writing sequels to his Griffen McCandle series as well. She’s got a space opera series, The Imperium, out now which sounds intriguing. (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1958 Nancy Springer, 62. May I recommend her Tales of Rowan Hood series of which her Rowan Hood: Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest is a most splendid revisionist telling of that legend? And her Enola Holmes Mysteries are a nice riffing off of the Holmsiean mythos. (CE)
  • Born July 5, 1963 Alma Alexander, 57. Sixteen novels, a dozen shorter stories, for us; more outside our field.  The Secrets of Jin-Shei has been translated into fourteen languages; three sequels.  God of the Unmage has Nikola Tesla.  Of writing The Second Star, just released a few days ago, she says “dream fragments … wash up tantalizingly as flotsam and jetsam on the shores of coming awake.  One such fragment lay glittering on that shore one morning – a single sentence … a soul is like a starfish”; this proves to bear on interstellar travel.  She likes coffee, cherries, and sonnets.  [JH]
  • Born July 5, 1964 Ronald D. Moore, 56. Screenwriter and producer who’s best-remembered  for his work on Star Trek: The Next Generation where he fleshed out the Klingon race and culture, on the rebooted Battlestar Galactica, and Outlander. He’s the creator and writer of For All Mankind. (CE) 
  • Born July 5, 1985 – Meagan Spooner, 35.  Ten novels (five with Amy Kaufman).  Shadowlark had a Booklist starred review; Hunted, a Kirkus starred review.  These Broken Stars (with AK) was a New York Times Best-Seller and won an Aurealis Award.  Here’s how she ranks some books I know: Euripedes, Electra, The Phoenician Women, The Bacchae (4.21); Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (4.18); Austen, Persuasion (4.14); Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac (4.07); Adams, Watership Down (4.06).  She plays guitar, video games, and with her cat.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Jan Eliot’s Stone Soup comic strip is winding down:

For those of you who saw this Sunday’s strip, I know you can see that I have decided to retire Stone Soup. I can’t imagine turning the strip, which is so personal to me, over to anyone else, and my syndicate is not planning on running reruns. The last Stone Soup strip will appear on July 26, when I will officially jump off the funny pages.

And the artist has been breaking the news to the characters, within the strips: June 14, June 21, June 28, and July 5.

(9) DESPITE HAMILTON. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik interviews “frequent chronicler of Disney” Josh Spiegel about whether Disney’s business model works any more. “How Disney could be facing a lot more than a lost summer”.

Disney has long been an outfit fueled by nostalgia…But Disney’s little secret is that such nostalgia cannot stand on its own–it needs to be continually fed and reinforced.  New Star Wars offerings drive longing for the ’70s, a Beauty And The Beast remake powers nostalgia for the 1990s.  Marvel movies draft off pleasant feelings of a childhood of comic books (and, 12 years into their run, of themselves).  Disney is a constant interplat between past and present, a continuous bicycle chain between the pieces we once loved and the current releases we see to remind us of them.

And that chain has now been severed.

‘What Disney really needs to do, what they rely on, is creating new nostalgia; they can’t just let the old kind stand for itself,’ Spiegel said.  ‘Because, at some point, the umpteenth time you watch Frozen is the last time you watch Frozen.’

(10) OOPSIE. “Rocket Lab: Latest mission from New Zealand lost in flight” – BBC can’t find it either.

The American launch company that flies its rockets out of New Zealand has lost its latest mission.

Rocket Lab said its Electron vehicle failed late in its ascent from Mahia Peninsula on North Island.

All satellite payloads are assumed to have been destroyed.

These included imaging spacecraft from Canon Electronics of Japan and Planet Labs Inc of California, as well as a technology demonstration platform from a UK start-up called In-Space Missions.

Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologised to his customers.

“I am incredibly sorry that we failed to deliver our customers’ satellites today. Rest assured we will find the issue, correct it and be back on the pad soon,” he said on Twitter

Rocket Lab has made everyone in the space sector sit up since it debuted its Electron vehicle in 2017. It’s at the head of a wave of new outfits that want to operate compact rockets to service the emerging market for small satellites.

Saturday’s lift-off from New Zealand was the Electron’s 13th outing to date. All prior launches had been a complete success, bar the very first which failed to reach its intended orbit.

(11) BEYOND BURGERS. “Can a BBC reporter make better pizza than a machine?” – video.

A machine which is able to put together about 300 pizzas per hour has been developed by Picnic.

The dough base still has to be prepared by a human but the sauce and toppings are added by machine.

Inside the machine are ingredient modules such as sauce, cheese, vegetables and meat.

A camera takes pictures of each stage of the ingredients being added to the pizza which is then analysed by artificial intelligence software to help it improve the process.

(12) THE THINGIE WITH A DONGLE. “Why Singapore turned to wearable contact-tracing tech”.

Singapore’s TraceTogether Tokens are the latest effort to tackle Covid-19 with tech. But they have also reignited a privacy debate.

The wearable devices complement the island’s existing contact-tracing app, to identify people who might have been infected by those who have tested positive for the virus.

All users have to do is carry one, and the battery lasts up to nine months without needing a recharge – something one expert said had “stunned” him.

The government agency which developed the devices acknowledges that the Tokens – and technology in general – aren’t “a silver bullet”, but should augment human contact-tracers’ efforts.

The first to receive the devices are thousands of vulnerable elderly people who don’t own smartphones.

To do so, they had to provide their national ID and phone numbers – TraceTogether app users recently had to start doing likewise.

If dongle users test positive for the disease, they have to hand their device to the Ministry of Health because – unlike the app – they cannot transmit data over the internet.

(13) HOLLYWOOD ON THE LINE. “A Theater Student Gets Supersized Attention After Superhero Video Goes Viral”NPR story and video.

Julian Bass loves Spider-Man, a trait you can easily glean by scrolling through the videos he posts to his TikTok and Twitter accounts.

“I just think Spider-Man is so fun. It’s so inspiring to me,” Bass told NPR’s Weekend Edition. “Everything, every little aspect that you could possibly think of about Spider-Man is something that I’m aware of, that I know of.”

In one now-viral video, the 20-year-old theater major at Georgia State University morphs into his favorite heroes using his own special-effects — first a Jedi wielding a blue lightsaber, then Ben 10, before his final transition into Spider-Man. He asked his followers to retweet the video “enough times that Disney calls.” Twenty million views later, Disney wasn’t the only one he heard from.

At first, he said his video gained “some small traction with my immediate circle.”

“And then the verified profiles started commenting,” he said. “The first one for me was The Lonely Island. And then I started seeing Josh Gad, Matthew Cherry. I saw Mark Hamill liked it. I mean if Mark Hamill likes it, I’m a Jedi now.”

Bass said these aren’t just retweets — he’s also getting messages from “bigwigs” such as Marvel co-president Louis D’Esposito and people from HBO Max.

(14) NZ LETS IN SOME PRODUCTIONS. Variety reports various genre shows get exemptions for cast and crew to enter NZ: “‘The Lord Of the Rings’, ‘Cowboy Bebop’ Series Among 5 Productions Granted New Zealand Border Exemptions”.

Several more overseas productions will join James Cameron’s Avatar sequels and Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog Netflix film in New Zealand in the coming months.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment has announced that Amazon’s The Lord of the Rings series, Netflix series Cowboy Bebop and Sweet Tooth, Peter Farrelly’s film Greatest Beer Run Ever starring Viggo Mortensen, and Power Rangers Beast Morphers series have been granted border exemptions.

A total of 206 foreign-based cast and crew from those productions, along with 35 family members, will be allowed to enter New Zealand in the next six months, according to MBIE manager immigration policy Sian Roguski, quoted by New Zealand’s Stuff. Additionally, 10 more Avatar crew – in addition to the 31 already in New Zealand – had been granted border exemptions. All new arrivals will be subject to self-quarantine….

(15) BLOWN UP, SIR! In “Independence Day Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the film’s aliens are very considerate by blowing up monuments that can be put in the trailer.

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Errolwi, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/16/20 We’re Two Lost Scrolls On The Pixel Of Life

(1) OKORAFOR ON BBC. BBC World Service’s program In the Studio features “Nnedi Okorafor: Creating sci-fi worlds”.

The award-winning science fiction author Nnedi Okorafor always has a project—or three—on the go. From her home outside Chicago she creates stories driven by what she describes as Africanfuturism and Africanjujuism for children and adults -a legacy of her Nigerian roots. Her work now ranges across comics for Marvel, screenplays and yet another new novel due out in the summer. 

But she wasn’t always destined to be a writer. She spent her youth training hard to be a top class athlete until she developed curvature of the spine, which put an end to her dreams. After corrective surgery she became temporarily paralysed and it was then, during her darkest time, that she began to create stories. 

Now, as Chicago, like the rest of the US endures lockdown, Nnedi’s been adapting to her changed life and restricted movements. Mark Burman talks to her about her work and how her creative process has been affected during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

During recordings made in April and early May he eavesdrops on some of her writing moments including her fruitful collaboration with the Kenyan director Wanuri Kahiu and their story of an A.I. traffic police robot—and hears about the therapeutic distraction of her trumpet-playing daughter and magnificent cat which now has his own Twitter account! 

(2) Q&A AND SLF. The Speculative Literature Foundation has been posting interviews Mary Anne Mohanraj conducted with sff writers at various conventions on their YouTube channel this month.

  • Scott Woods
  • Kate Elliott
  • Nalo Hopkinson
  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Vida Cruz

(3) ULTRAMAN. Marvel’s The Rise Of Ultraman #1 hits stands this September, featuring a cover by Alex Ross. Ultraman has been a pop culture staple since the franchise debuted in the 1960s, and his stories have been depicted on both the page and the screen – and the 2007 Hugo base.

…Storytelling masters Kyle Higgins (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Winter Soldier) and Mat Groom (Self/Made), together with superstar artists Francesco Manna (Avengers, Fantastic Four) Michael Cho (Captain America) and Gurihiru (The Unstoppable Wasp) will take fans back into the days of darkness, where the terrifying Kaiju lurk….

“Across the globe, Ultraman is as iconic and well-recognized a character as Spider-Man or Iron Man, so when the opportunity arose for us to introduce his mythos to a new generation, as seen through the Marvel lens, we didn’t take that responsibility lightly,” said Marvel Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “For fans of the classic 1966 series, there’ll be plenty of Easter eggs that you’ll recognize. But for those who’ve never experienced an Ultraman story before, this series will start at square one—launching an epic showdown fit for the modern age.”

“With release of Marvel’s The Rise of Ultraman series, Tsuburaya Productions and our partners at Marvel Comics are taking ULTRAMAN a massive step forward onto the global stage,” said Tsuburaya CEO Takayuki Tsukagoshi. “Marvel’s rendering of the ULTRAMAN story has been faithfully created with the highest level of respect, quality and creativity resulting in a storyline that expands the ULTRAMAN universe.”

(4) RESOUNDING. Marc Laidlaw, is busy on his YouTube channel, too. He’s been reading short stories and posting them for a few months, but just today he began posting chapters of his new novel, Underneath The Oversea. It’s the first novel involving his long-running character, Gorlen Vizenfirthe. Marc will be posting all 28 chapters as an audio serial, over the next month or so…however long it takes.

(5) THEY GOT WET. Kevin Polowy, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story  “‘Gremlins 2’ at 30: Director Joe Dante talks ‘crazy, manic movie’ and contributions of Rick Baker and Christopher Lee”, uses a 2015 interview with director Joe Dante, where Dante talks about how special-effects wizard Rick Baker came up with many of the crazy gremlins in Gremlins 2 and how Sir Christopher Lee deserved credit for playing his role as mad scientist “Dr, Catheter” relatively straight.

…“Rick Baker didn’t want to come on if he had to redo [original creator] Chris Walas’s gremlins because what’s in it for him? And so to induce him, we changed the story so that there was a genetics lab run by Christopher Lee,” Dante says of the plot, which finds our furry friend Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) once again spawning dangerous offspring, this time in a Manhattan skyscraper. “They turned the gremlins into different kinds of gremlins. So all the designs and ideas that Rick had, we could come up with and we could make different kinds of gremlins out of them. And plus he changed the designs of Gizmo and the regular gremlins a little bit.” 

This Key & Peele takeoff about the Gremlins sequel is funny:

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 16, 1896 Murray Leinster. It is said that he wrote and published more than fifteen hundred short stories and articles, fourteen movie scripts, and hundreds of radio scripts and television plays. Among those was his 1945 Retro-Hugo winning “First Contact” novella which is one of the first (if not the first) instances of a universal translator in science fiction. So naturally his heirs sued Paramount Pictures over Star Trek: First Contact, claiming that it infringed their trademark in the term. However, the suit was dismissed. I’m guessing they filed just a bit late given the universal translator was used in Trek prior to that film. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1920 – Ted Dikty.  Active fan from 1938; with Bob Formanek, fanzine Fantasy Digest; headed Indiana Fantasy Ass’n, published IFA Review; also 1940 Who’s Who in Fandom, see a PDF scan of it here – no, really, do see it; even more interesting from our perspective.  Worked on Chicon I and II (2nd and 10th Worldcons).  Married Julian May (she chaired Chicon II), each developing pro careers.  With Everett Bleiler, our first annual “best” series, Best SF Stories 1949 and five more, Year’s Best SF Novels 1952 and two more; also Imagination Unlimited. Then alone, Best SF Stories 1955 through 1958, several more e.g. Great SF Stories About MarsGreat SF Stories About the MoonWorlds Within Worlds.  With Robert Reginald, The Work of Julian May.  Sampo Award (given 1970-1980 for services to fandom).  Co-founded Shasta Publishers and Starmont House.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1924 Faith Domergue. Dr. Ruth Adams in the classic Fifties This Island Earth. She has a number of later genre roles, Professor Lesley Joyce in It Came from Beneath the Sea, Jill Rabowski in Timeslip (aka The Atomic Man) and Dr. Marsha Evans in Voyage to a Prehistoric Planet. She amazingly did no genre television acting. (Died 1999) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1925 – Jean d’Ormesson.  More fully Jean Bruno Wladimir François de Paule Le Fèvre d’Ormesson, a count of France; his father the Marquis of Ormesson was Ambassador to Brazil.  Starting 1956, fifty books, novels, plays; in 1971 alternative history The Glory of the Empire – full of detail, all fictional – won the Grand Prix du roman (as novels are called in French; tr. English 1974, Amazon has a Kindle edition here) of the Academie Française; in 1973 its youngest member; in 2009 its longest-serving member and dean.  Both staunch on the Right politically and a good friend of socialist Mitterrand; played M in film comedy Haute Cuisine about M’s chef.  Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour.  Officer, National Order of Merit.  Ovid prize (Romania).  Macron called him “the best of the French spirit … intelligence, elegance, and mischief”.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1938 Joyce Carol Oates, 82. No Hugos but she has garnered a World Fantasy Award in Short Fiction for “Fossil-Figures”, and has won more Stokers than I thought possible, the latest one for her most excellent collection of horror and dark fantasy stories,  The Doll-Master and Other Tales of Terror. She has written pure SF in the form of Hazards of Time Travel which is quite good. (CE) 
  • Born June 16, 1940 Carole Ford, 80. She played the granddaughter and original companion of the First Doctor. She reprised the role for The Five Doctors, the Dimensions in Time charity special, and of course for The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her first genre role was as Bettina in The Day of the Triffids, and she had an earlier role as an uncredited teen in the hall of mirrors in Horrors of the Black Museum. (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1939 David McDaniel. A prolific writer of Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels penning seven of them, with such names as The Vampire Affair and The Hallow Crown Affair. He also wrote a novel for The Prisoner series, The Prisoner: Number Two. As a fan, he was quite active in LASFS, serving as its Director and Scribe, writing for various APAs (he aspired to be in all of them) and is remembered as a “Patron Saint” for his financial support of the club. (Died 1977) (CE)
  • Born June 16, 1958 – Don Sakers.  Half a dozen novels, two dozen shorter stories; the Reference Library in Analog since 2009; Carmen Miranda’s Ghost is Haunting Space Station Three and three more anthologies; SF Book of Days. [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1963 – Robert Beatty.  Pioneer in cloud computing.  Co-founded Beatty Robotics with two daughters.  Narrative magazine 2005-2013.  Champion sabre fencer; licensed wildlife rehabilitator; Website shows him and wife with wedding-puppies (they lure-coursed whippets).  Four novels about Serafina secretly in the basement of the Biltmore estate in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the first two and Willa of the Wood being New York Times Best Sellers.  Here is his cover for his Dream Dance artbook about Ed Emshwiller.  [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1969 – Hélène Boudreau.  Acadian author of children’s books, a dozen so far; four for us about real mermaids e.g. they don’t sell seashells.  “I’m a compulsive walker and train for half marathons and also love dark chocolate, bacon, and Perrier water (in that order).”  [JH]
  • Born June 16, 1972 Andy Weir, 48. His debut novel, The Martian, was adapted into a film directed by Ridley Scott. He received the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. His next two novels are Artemis and Project Hail Mary, the latter which is forthcoming. Intriguingly, he’s written one piece of Sherlockian fan fiction, “James Moriarty, Consulting Criminal“ which is only available as an Audible audiobook. (CE) 
  • Born June 16, 1981 – Salla Simukka.  Critic, editor, reviewer, scriptwriter for Finnish Broadcasting Co.  Translator of books into Finnish as well as writing Finnish versions; a dozen of her own so far, three for us (As Red as BloodAs White as SnowAs Black as Ebony put Snow White into Finnish – told Sumukka’s way: see the 27 Sep 13 Publishers Weekly).  Topelius Prize, Finland Prize.  I couldn’t attend the Helsinki (75th) Worldcon; did you?  Did you meet her?  [JH] 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) UNDER THE DOME. Warner Bros. passed on the invitation to be part of the online San Diego Comic-Con. Instead, they’ll host their own DC FanDome, a free, global, 24-hour virtual convention taking place on August 22.

SYFY Wire has distilled the press release: “DC Sets 24-Hour ‘Fandome’ Event With Wonder Woman 1984, The Batman, Snyder Cut And More”.

With San Diego Comic-Con set to be held online this year due to the global pandemic, Warner Bros. is making its own plans to show off its movies, TV shows and everything else. Needless to say, the studio won’t be sitting out the annual pop culture convention scene. Far from it.

The studio has decided to host its own free-of-charge virtual event in late August called “DC FanDome.” It’s basically a 24-hour Hall H livestream during which the company will tease out its most anticipated comic book projects like Wonder Woman 1984The BatmanBlack AdamThe Suicide SquadSuperman & Lois, and the Snyder Cut of Justice League.

“The global event will immerse fans into the DC Multiverse, with new announcements from WB Games, Film and TV, and comics, as well as an unprecedented opportunity to hear from the casts and creators behind your favorite feature films and TV series,” reads the release.

(9) SPOT ON THE MONEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Until now, if you wanted your very own Spot the Robot Dog you had to lease one. No longer. You now have the option to buy your very own Spot from maker Boston Dynamics, assuming you have about $75K to spare. You can even pick up a pair of them, but no more than that for now. WIRED has the story: “You Can Now Buy Spot the Robot Dog—If You’ve Got $74,500”.

Spot, Boston Dynamics’ famous robot dog, dutifully follows my every command. The machine traipses forward, then automatically scrambles over a raised bed of rocks. I make it side-step. I command it up a flight of stairs, which it tackles with ease. It meets its match when I steer it at a medicine ball, though; it takes a tumble, and for a moment lies paralyzed on its back. But with a click of a button, Spot twists and rights itself, and recommences its ramblings.

Such unfailing obedience, yet I’m nowhere near Spot, which is roaming about the company’s testing grounds in Boston. I’m piloting the robot through my web browser from the comfort of my apartment in San Francisco, 3,000 miles away. With almost zero latency, I either use the robot’s front camera feed to click on bits of terrain—think of it like scooting around in Google’s Street View—or flicking my keyboard’s WASD keys in the most expensive videogame imaginable….

(10) KEEPING BUSY. “Star Trek: Next Generation fan rebuilds bridge set” – BBC video.

One model maker could have reached the final frontier of construction with his latest work.

Geoff Collard, from Paulton in Somerset, has spent 500 hours recreating the bridge set from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

His model has won praise from Star Trek fans for its realism.

(11) TREK MAKE-OVER. William Shatner hasn’t lost his touch for cringe-inducing tweets – but the photo gallery is intriguing.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, rcade, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Darrah Chavey, Lise Andreasen, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/20 Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Time Enough For Love Potions Numbers 7, 8 And 9

(1) ON YOUR MARX. If this Scroll is posted in time, you can make it to Mark Evanier’s livestream Newsfromme.tv Conversations with Steve Stoliar, starting tonight at 7 p.m. Pacific:

In addition to being a comedy writer and voice actor, Steve Stoliar had the unique experience of being Groucho Marx’s personal assistant/secretary during the last years of that great comedian’s life. Mark Evanier talks with him about Groucho, the controversial Erin Fleming and all things Marxian except Karl.

(2) ROWLING’S NEXT. Mackenzie Nichols, in the Variety story, “J.K. Rowling Announces New Children’s Book ‘The Ickabog’” says that Rowling has announced the publication of The Ickabog, which is not part of the Harry Potter universe but is meant for 7-9 olds.  She intends to post a chapter every day at theickabog.com until July 10 and promises that profits from the book will aid COVID-19 relief.

Unlike her spinoff stories “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them” or “Quidditch Through the Ages,” “The Ickabog” has no relation to the “Harry Potter” series. And while plot details about “The Ickabog” were scarce, the author said its thematic elements are timeless.

“‘The Ickabog’ is a story about truth and the abuse of power,” Rowling said. “To forestall one obvious question: the idea came to me well over a decade ago, so it isn’t intended to be read as a response to anything that’s happening in the world right now. The themes are timeless and could apply to any era or any country.”

At The Ickabog website she says —  

I had the idea for The Ickabog a long time ago and read it to my two younger children chapter by chapter each night while I was working on it. However, when the time came to publish it, I decided to put out a book for adults instead, which is how The Ickabog ended up in the attic. I became busy with other things, and even though I loved the story, over the years I came to think of it as something that was just for my own children.

Then this lockdown happened. It’s been very hard on children, in particular, so I brought The Ickabog down from the attic, read it for the first time in years, rewrote bits of it and then read it to my children again. They told me to put back in some bits they’d liked when they were little, and here we are!

Everyone will be invited to draw for the story, too: The Ickabog Illustration Competition.

The most exciting part, for me, at least, is that I’d like you to illustrate The Ickabog for me. Every day, I’ll be making suggestions for what you might like to draw. You can enter the official competition being run by my publishers, for the chance to have your artwork included in a printed version of the book due out later this year. I’ll be giving suggestions as to what to draw as we go along, but you should let your imagination run wild.

(3) PRIZEWINNER. Naomi Kritzer got a fine write-up in the hometown Pioneer Press: “St. Paul author stunned by success of genre-jumping “CatNet””.

Naomi Kritzer was 4 when she discovered science fiction through the first “Star Wars” film.

“I was grabbed by John Williams’ music, the lightsabers, the magic of The Force. It all appealed to me and sold me on science fiction,” Kritzer recalls.

Now, 43 years later, The Force is with this St. Paul author. Her genre-jumping young adult novel “Catfishing on CatNet, ” about teenagers who befriend a sentient artificial intelligence who lives in the internet, is scooping up major honors. It’s based on her award-winning, 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please.”

Last month Kritzer collected two prestigious awards in three days. She won a Minnesota Book Award on April 28, and on April 30 she won a Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award. In early May her book was a Silver Winner in the Nautilus Book Awards, which focus on books striving to make a better world….

(4) IRRESISTIBLE ALICE BOOK. [Item by Daniel Dern.] While I’m not a compleatist Carroll/Alice collector, seeing this in the Bud’s Art Books mailer I got today caught my eye.

(Yes, I know there’s a Carroll society. I’m about to join. And I’ll write an item RSN/PDQ, including a nod to an SFnal connection. But this is semi-news.)

I noticed in the new Bud’s Art Books (although I still think of them as Bud Plant) mini-catalog that came in today’s (snail) mail that there’s a new (not yet out) book — here’s info.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice was first published in 1865 and has never been out of print, translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal, for both adults and children? This book explores the global impact of Alice in art, design, and performance from the 19th century to today. Starting with the Victorian literary and social context in which this story was created, it shows the ways it’s been reimagined and reinterpreted by each new generation, from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s 2010 interpretation.”

Bud’s listing says $50 (plus shipping), “Due July” but when I placed my order (after hesitating a modest 20 seconds), it said “This product is not available in the requested quantity. 1 of the items will be backordered.”

I included a note in my order asking whether that reflected it being not out yet, or whether they already had more orders than they anticipated copies to fulfill existing orders.

Amazon also has it listed $45.82, Sept 15. Here’s the info text from Amazon:

“Explore the phenomenon of Alice in Wonderland, which has captivated readers from Walt Disney to Annie Leibovitz for over 150 years.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is a cultural phenomenon. First published in 1865, it has never been out of print and has been translated into 170 languages. But why does it have such enduring and universal appeal for both adults and children?

This book explores the global impact of Alice in Wonderland across art, design and performance from the nineteenth century to today. It shows how Alice has been re-imagined and reinterpreted by each new generation: from the original illustrations by John Tenniel to artwork by Peter Blake and Salvador Dali, and from the 1951 Disney movie to Tim Burton’s latest interpretation.

This beautiful, playful publication also includes specially commissioned interactive illustrations by award-winning artist Kristjana S. Williams, as well as quotes from an array of cultural creators from Stephen Fry to Tim Walker, Ralph Steadman to Little Simz about the profound influence of Alice on their work.”

Whether this book is basically redundant to my modest collection of Aliceiana, I’ll find out.

(5) ALASKAN CONFIDENTIAL. In “Noir Fiction: When The Real Is Too Raw” on CrimeReads, Laird Barron, who writes horror and crime fiction, discusses the colorful people who visited his parents when he lived in Alaska and how he used these people as materials for his crime novels.

…A colorful ex-con named Tommy operated within those precincts. Tommy did time at the Goose Creek Penitentiary; warrants dogged him. He allegedly peddled coke for some bigger fish in Anchorage. Tommy drove a wired-together Datsun, or a motorcycle for the three months a man could do so without freezing his family jewels off. His favorite pastime included getting drunk at the lodge and harassing townies who alighted for weekend flings. He hated “the man.” To demonstrate his disdain, he’d snip pocket change in half with pliers….

(6) GET THE LIST. Andrew Liptak’s latest Reading List features an “Interview with Marko Kloos”.

Did you find taking that break from Frontlines beneficial? What did you take from that break that you were able to apply to the series?

It was immensely beneficial, even if I did get some flak from a few readers for daring to start another series when they were waiting for more Frontlines. But I really needed a bit of mental distance from that universe to come up with more stories worth telling. As long as it takes a few days to read what takes a few months to write, readers will want more books as quickly as possible.

(7) ART CRITICS STAND BY. Mark Lawrence (per his tradition) has followed the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off book competition by announckng the “SPFBO 6 Cover Contest”. The finalists have been picked by the bloggers. Not all the entries are in yet. When they are, the public will be invited to vote on the winner. Says Lawrence:

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(8) GOLDEN AGE SF ARTIST. Doug Ellis offers a catalog of art from the estate of artist Hubert Rogers, items now available for sale.

When John W. Campbell, the legendary editor of Astounding Science Fiction, looked for an artist to give expression to the groundbreaking fiction he was running during what is now known as science fiction’s Golden Age, he selected veteran pulp illustrator Hubert Rogers. For nearly 15 years (with a break during the war years, when he returned to his native Canada and contributed art for the war effort), Rogers was Astounding’s primary cover artist and a prolific interior artist, contributing distinctive art imbued with a touch of class, distinguishing Astounding from its fellow pulp competitors.

Unlike many science fiction artists, Rogers received much of his original art back from the publisher. This has been held by the Rogers family for the past 80 years, with only occasional pieces being offered in the market. Rogers’ daughter, Liz, has now decided to make available to collectors nearly all of the remaining art in their collection, which is listed in this catalog. This is truly a unique opportunity to acquire vintage science fiction art from the estate of the artist.

But Rogers didn’t only create classic science fiction art. His pulp art also included covers for the hero pulps, and two of his covers for Street & Smith’s The Wizard (a companion title to Astounding) can be found here for sale as well.

  • The illustrated catalog can be found here.
  • And you can download high res images of all the art in a zip file here.
This example of Rogers’ art is a scan from the magazine cover — the original for sale is much more brightly colored.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 26, 1995 Johnny Mnemonic premiered. Based on the William Gibson short story of the same name, it was directed by Robert Longo in his directorial debut. It starred Keanu Reeves, Takeshi Kitan, Henry Rollins, Ice-T, Dina Meyer and Dolph Lundgren. Despite the story itself being well received and even being nominated for a Nebula Award, the response among critics to the film was overwhelmingly negative. It currently holds a 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. It is available to watch here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 26, 1840 – Frederick Walker.  Painter, pen & ink illustrator, wood engraver, watercolors.  Renowned in his day.  Social Realist; see herehere.  Incorporated fantasy, see here (Spirit Painting), here.  (Died 1875) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert Chambers. His most-remembered work was The King in Yellow short stories. Though he would turn away from these supernatural tellings, Lovecraft’s included some of them in his Supernatural Horror in Literature critical study. Critics thought his work wasn’t as great as could have been. That said, Stross, Wagner, Carter and even Blish are said to have been influenced by him. (Died 1933.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1867 – André Devambez.  Painter, illustrator, engraver, printmaker.  Contributed to Le Figaro IllustréLe RireL’Illustration.  Look at The Only Bird that Flies Above the Cloudshere, factual but fantastic; imagine seeing it in 1910.  Here is an illustration for Noëlle Roger’s cataclysmic The New Deluge (1922).  Here is an oil Leprechauns in an Undergrowth.  (Died 1944) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1903 Harry Steeger. He co-founded Popular Publications in 1930, one of the major publishers of pulp magazines, with former classmate Harold S. Goldsmith. They published The Spider which he created, and with Horror Stories and Terror Tales, he started the “Shudder Pulp” genre. So lacking in taste were these pulps, even a jaded public eventually rejected them. (Died 1990.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best-known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1913 – Joan Jefferson Farjeon.  Scenic designer, illustrated published versions of plays she’d done, also fairy tales.  See here (a frog footman), here (a tiger lily), here.  From a 1951 stage production, here is a moment in Beauty and the Beast.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. He’s best-known for Level 7. (Read the expanded 2004 edition as it has his SF framing narrative.) He is also the author of A Small Armageddon, and a nonfiction work, Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in a recurring  role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. He narrates at least some of the GoT audiobooks. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 26, 1925 – Howard DeVore.  Began collecting, 1936.  Michigan Science Fantasy Society, 1948 (Hal Shapiro said it was the Michigan Instigators of Science Fantasy for Intellectual Thinkers Society, i.e. MISFITS).  Leading dealer in SF books, paraphernalia; known as Big-Hearted Howard, a compliment-complaint-compliment; called himself “a huckster, 1st class”.  Active in Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; Neffy Award.  Also Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n (FAPA), Spectator Am. Pr. Soc. (SAPS).  Said a Worldcon would be in Detroit over his dead body; was dragged across the stage; became Publicity head for Detention the 17th Worldcon.  With Donald Franson The Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (through 3rd ed’n 1998).  Named Fan Guest of Honor for 64th Worldcon, but died before the con.  His beanie had a full-size airplane propeller.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1933 – Yôji Kondô.  Ph.D. in astrophysics. Aikido (7th degree black belt) and judo (6th degree). Senior positions at NASA, Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement; two hundred scientific papers; for more on that work, see here.  SF as Eric Kotani; six novels, most with J.M. Roberts; two shorter stories; edited Requiem tribute to Heinlein; non-fiction Interstellar Travel & Multi-Generation Space Ships with F. Bruhweiler, J. Moore, C. Sheffield; essays, mostly co-authored, in SF Age and Analog.  Heinlein Award.  Writers of the Future judge.  Obituary by OGH here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1938 – Lyudmila Petrushevskaya. Author (including plays and screenwriting), singer, painter, animator.  Russian Booker Prize, Pushkin Prize, World Fantasy Award.  Twenty short stories in our field, most recently in The Paris Review.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1946 – Mike Horvat.  Printer by trade.  Co-founder of Slanapa (the Slanderous Amateur Press Ass’n).  Donated his fanzine collection to U. Iowa, see here.  Active in apas outside our field, a decades-longer tradition; founded the American Private Press Ass’n, was its Librarian until 2005. Also amateur radio, postage stamps.  [JH]
  • Born May 26, 1954 – Lisbeth Zwerger.  Children’s book illustrator.  Hans Christian Andersen and Silver Brush awards; Grand Prize from German Academy for Children’s & Youth Literature.  Thirty books, most of them fantasy; see here (Swan Lake), here (the Mad Tea Party), here.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM THE CIRCULAR FILE. Paul Levitz recalls the days when comics scripts were tossed in the trash after the project was over in “Artifacts”.

…Notwithstanding this, I saved a bunch of scripts from the trash for my own eduction. I’d pick out one each from the writers whose work I respected, or maybe a particularly interesting tale to study. I was limited to the scripts that passed through Joe Orlando’s editorial office–as his assistant I could take what I wanted of those, but it would have been de trop to raid Julie Schwartz’s garbage down the hall (assuming he hadn’t poured his yankee bean soup remains from lunch all over it, anyway). I learned what I could from them, then filed them away somewhere at home….

(13) THE BEER THAT MADE MFULA FAMOUS. “Under Pandemic Prohibition, South Africans Resort to Pineapples”Atlas Obscura has the story.

ON MARCH 15, THE DAY before South Africans were plunged into a lockdown which prohibited sales of alcohol, cigarettes, and takeout food, lines outside liquor stores spilled into the streets. One bottle store owner told me he did a month’s trade in a day.

Three weeks later, when President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear the booze ban wouldn’t be lifted anytime soon, South Africans started to get desperate. Bottle store break-ins and drone-assisted drink deliveries made the news across the country. Then came the tenfold leap in pineapple sales: from 10,000 a day to nearly 100,000.

Thirsty South Africans have turned to making their own beer out of pineapples. In normal times, you can get sloshed on pineapple beer at the Big Pineapple, a 56-foot fiberglass construction in subtropical Bathurst. But these are not normal times. Luckily, pineapple beer—which is technically more of a wine or cider, as there’s no boiling involved—is easy to make, and can even be quite pleasant to drink.

(14) HELLO? ANYONE OUT THERE? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Popular Mechanics takes a popsci look at a new analysis of the development intelligent life. “This Math Formula Has Determined the Odds of Aliens Existing” In a recent paper (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 May 2020), astronomer David Kipping uses Bayesian analysis to ponder the probabilities of intelligent life developing here or elsewhere. The paper’s statement of significance reads:

Does life’s early emergence mean that it would reappear quickly if we were to rerun Earth’s clock? If the timescale for intelligence evolution is very slow, then a quick start to life is actually necessary for our existence—and thus does not necessarily mean it is a generally quick process. Employing objective Bayesianism and a uniform-rate process assumption, we use just the chronology of life’s appearance in the fossil record, that of ourselves, and Earth’s habitability window to infer the true underlying rates accounting for this subtle selection effect. Our results find betting odds of >3:1 that abiogenesis is indeed a rapid process versus a slow and rare scenario, but 3:2 odds that intelligence may be rare.

Popular Mechanics sums up the paper with a single quote:

“Overall, our work supports an optimistic outlook for future searches for biosignatures,” the paper explains.

(15) ARM YOURSELVES. Daniel Dern quips, “This is the droid we’ve been looking for!” “Robotic Arm Wields UV Light Wand To Disinfect Public Spaces” in IEEE Spectrum.

Properly disinfecting public spaces can help stop the spread of coronavirus, but cleaning crews are often not properly trained how to do so. Also, if the workers don’t wear personal protective equipment, they are at risk for infection.

IEEE Fellow Satyandra K. Gupta is leading a research team at the University of Southern California’s Viterbi Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Los Angeles that is building a robotic arm that uses a UV light sanitizer to clean contaminated areas.

(16) OUTSIDE THE BOX. ScreenRant reports that Big Finish has lined up two Doctors for this audio drama: “Doctor Who: David Tennant & Tom Baker Unite Against Daleks In New Story”.

David Tennant and Tom Baker are uniting to battle the Daleks in an upcoming Doctor Who audio-drama. The longest-running sci-fi TV series in the world, Doctor Who has become a cult classic. Regeneration is the secret to the show’s success. Doctor Who can reinvent itself periodically, recasting its star and allowing a new showrunner to take it in entirely new directions.

Every now and again, though, two or more incarnations of the Doctor come together in a fan-pleasing adventure in which they battle against iconic foes…. 

The plot is –

The Cathedral of Contemplation is an enigma, existing outside time. It turns through history, opening its doors across the universe to offer solace to those in need.

Occasionally, the Doctor drops in – when he’s avoiding his destiny, it’s an ideal place to get some perspective. Only, he’s already there several lives earlier, so when dimension barriers break down, his past and present collide.

And when the Daleks invade and commandeer the Cathedral, two Doctors must unite to stop them – or face extermination twice over!

(17) OTHER PEOPLE STARED, AS IF WE WERE BOTH QUITE INSANE. This is wild! The “augmented reality” bus stop window.

[Thanks to Mlex, Michael Toman, N., Andrew Porter, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, the man who does for Scroll titles what Escher did for architecture, Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew Porter, JJ, Michael Toman, Contrarius, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]